Group Warns Church of Priest's Release
Convicted Child Molester Was Once Leader at St. Joseph's
By Adrienne Ziegler
Desert Dispatch [Barstow CA]
February 6, 2006
BARSTOW -- An advocacy group passed out leaflets Sunday in front of St. Joseph's Catholic Church, warning parishioners that convicted child molester and former priest at the church, Edward Anthony Rodrigue, was released from prison Jan. 26.
Known to most as "Father Tony," Rodrigue, 69, was a priest at St. Joseph's in the early 1970s. He served eight and a half years of his 10 year prison sentence for sexually assaulting a mentally disabled 11-year-old Highland boy in 1997, at an apartment complex where he worked as a janitor.
But that was not Rodrigue's first offense.
In 1979, Rodrigue pleaded no contest to sexually assaulting an Ontario boy, and was placed on three years probation. In 1992, Rodrigue voluntarily resigned from the priesthood.
Members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) wanted to warn locals of his release since Rodrigue admitted to abusing over a hundred children during his time as a priest and is now living in San Bernardino.
Rodrigue told detectives during the investigation for the 1997 case, that he had molested five or six boys annually during his 20 years as a priest, which included Barstow children during his time at St. Joseph's in 1972 and 1973.
Research has shown, SNAP leaders said, that convicted sex offenders often return to places where they were welcomed before, like their former parish. Because St. Joseph's parishioners might not know about the prior abuse, they might allow sex offenders back into their lives, unwittingly putting their own children at risk for abuse.
"The reason we do this so much is that many of us believe we would have not been abused ... if church officials would have warned our parents," said Mary Grant, SNAP's western regional director. "Those children that need protection are those that are living in the Barstow area which is not very far from where Rodrigue is living now."
Grant said that church officials, who pledged to warn their parishioners, have not yet informed their members of Rodrigue's release. She said the group wrote a letter to Bishop Barnes of the Diocese of San Bernardino and Bishop Brom of the Diocese of San Diego, requesting that the Church warn their parishioners. She said the group has not received a response to that letter.
"It's the failure in the past and it's the failure today that continues to put kids at risk," she said.
However, Father Howard Lincoln, spokesman for the Diocese of San Bernardino, said church officials sent a memo to all the parishes and schools in San Bernardino before Rodrigue got out of prison, advising them of his release. Lincoln also said that whether or not the members were notified was left up to each individual church or school.
"The church wants to act in a responsible manner and we believe we've done so," Lincoln said.
Here in Barstow, St. Joseph's usher Eddie Garcia said he hadn't heard anything about Rodrigue, other than what he'd gathered from the media. Garcia was also a member of the church while Rodrigue was a priest in the 1970s and knew nothing of the abuse, although Rodrigue's time in Barstow was prior to his initial conviction.
Church leaders at St. Joseph's could not be reached for comment.
Lincoln also noted that the Church no longer deals with Rodrigue since his removal from the priesthood.
"We have no contact with him and we have no plans to have contact with him," Lincoln said. "He is not a Catholic priest. We have had no contact with him for over 15 years."
SNAP members hoped that St. Joseph's leaders would inform their members of Rodrigue's release.
"It'd be interesting to see if they are making any kind of an effort to warn the parish," said Pat Olivas, SNAP Inland Valley Director and one of Rodrigue's victims.
Both SNAP and the Catholic Church encourage that any abuse that's taken place is reported, regardless of how long ago the incident took place. Current statute of limitation laws state that older cases may still be valid if more recent victims come forward, Grant said.
"What we encourage, though, is that it is reported, that action is taken," Lincoln said.
Anyone with information regarding sexual abuse by clergy should report it to the Barstow Police Department at 760-256-2211. Callers wishing to remain anonymous may call the WeTip line at 1-800-782-7463.
Contact the writer: (760) 256-4122 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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