Ex-Priest Faces Fondling Counts Incidents Allegedly Occurred 27 Years Ago in Two State Localities

By Elizabeth Wilkerson
Richmond Times - Dispatch
August 4, 1993

CHARLOTTESVILLE — Two of three felony charges against a former Roman Catholic priest accused of sexually fondling a child more than 27 years ago were certified to Charlottesville and Albemarle County grand juries yesterday.

Paul Rodriguez, 59, who was an assistant priest at Holy Comforter Catholic Church in the mid-Sixties, is charged in connection with incidents at the church rectory, which is in the city, and at Holy Comforter School, an Albemarle school that no longer exists.

In Charlottesville-Albemarle Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court yesterday, his accuser said the alleged incidents took place in the 1965-66 school year when he was 11. When he confessed to masturbation, the accuser said, Rodriguez asked questions about it, told him it was a serious sin and suggested they meet to talk about it.

The man described three incidents when he said Rodriguez discussed masturbation with him and then asked him to demonstrate. On two occasions, the man testified, Rodriguez touched him on the genitals as they talked. He said he could not recall whether Rodriguez touched him during the third incident.

He said he did not become aroused and that Rodriguez did not ask to be touched. The meetings were presented to him as a series of counseling sessions, he said.

"I can't recall times when I saw him alone that it did not happen," the man testified. At one point, he said, he became "very nervous, worried, concerned" because the priest had told him he'd never be able to have children because of the masturbation. After he talked to his mother about the incidents, his parents informed church authorities, and Rodriguez was sent away, the man testified.

Rodriguez's lawyer, Scott Goodman, argued the charges should not be certified to the grand jury because there was no recollection of touching in the third alleged incident and no proof of lascivious intent in any of them.

Charlottesville Commonwealth's Attorney Stephen B. Deaton said that the statute requires only that fondling or feeling or an attempt to do so be present.

Judge John Cullen certified charges relating to the first two incidents but did not find probable cause to certify the charge relating to the third.

Under questioning from Goodman, the man, who lives in Virginia, said he had contacted authorities earlier this year for three reasons.

"This has been something that I have thought about over the years quite a bit," he said. "As I have gotten older and had children of my own, I realized he got away with something, at least with me. . . . It may not be this week, it may not be next week, but some time you have to be accountable for your actions."

The man said he also was afraid that what happened to him might happen to other children and that he felt the church was negligent. "I felt the way he did it — recruiting from the confessional — was unbelievably bad, and I had to (report) it."

Rodriguez was arrested July 2 in Los Osos, Calif. He was working as a clinical psychologist at the nearby California Men's Colony, a prison. He remains free on bond.

Rodriguez, who declined to comment after yesterday's hearing, faces a maximum of five years each on the two felony counts. There is no statute of limitations on a felony in Virginia.

Deaton said after the hearing that Rodriguez is still under investigation and that other charges are possible involving other individuals.


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