Priest Convicted of Molestation Faces Deportation As Sentence Ends

By Tom Sharpe
New Mexican
February 14, 2012

A former New Mexico priest could be deported to his native Philippines after being released from prison on charges of child molestation.

José Superiaso, 57, was ordained in the Archdiocese of Manila and immigrated to the United States in 1989 or 1990 to attend the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley, Calif.

He served as a priest in the San Francisco Archdiocese, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Taos and St. Anne Parish in Santa Fe until 2000, when he became associate rector of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.

A noted preacher who was articulate and charismatic, he rode a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, often traveled to Taos and Tesuque pueblos for services and championed sainthood for Kateri Tekakwitha, an Algonquin and Iroquois religious lay member in the 1600s.

In 2003, many parishioners were stunned when Superiaso was arrested in California on 25 counts of child molestation from 1994 and 1995, while he was a youth minister at St. Andrew's Church in Daly City.

California investigators had lured Superiaso to Daly City by having the victim call him to ask that he meet her at a coffee shop there.

The woman, who was not identified, said she was 12 years old when Superiaso began a sexual relationship with her after she confided to him that she previously had been molested by a priest in the Philippines.

"He was the keeper of my secret and then soon enough, he started making advances toward me," she told ABS-CBN News this week.

She also said that after several years of this secret relationship, she learned that Superiaso also was having sex with her sister, then only 12 years old.

Superiaso denied he was guilty and remained in jail in lieu of a $2.5 million bond. The Very Rev. Jerome Martinez y Alire, rector of the cathedral, announced that no matter the verdict, Superiaso would not be allowed to return as a priest.

In 2004, Superiaso published from his cell a book called My Sabbatical with God, in which he discussed his arrest: "My mug shot flashed several times in the local newscast that late afternoon as the word about my arrest was disseminated all over the world in an instant."

Some counts against him were dismissed and a mistrial was declared after a jury acquitted him on three other counts and deadlocked on the remaining counts. A second trial date was set, but in 2005, Superiaso pleaded guilty to six counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child under 14, and was sentenced to 10 years behind bars.

In 2009, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that he had written President Barack Obama to request a pardon of the state charges. But he was not pardoned.

Released after finishing his sentence on Jan. 24, Superiaso, who has not been granted U.S. citizenship, was turned over for deportation proceedings. Immigration officials say they expect it to take about two months to decide whether to deport him.

His victim has written the Archbishop of Manila to ask that he not be allowed to work as a pastor in any part of the Philippines. So far, Superiaso has not been defrocked.



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