Bishop Tells Corpus Priest to Surrender
Letter Sent to Spain in Molestation Case

By Evan Moore
Houston Chronicle
May 11, 1995

A priest accused of drugging and sexually molesting several boys and the father of one of them in Mathis has been ordered by the church to return from Spain to face criminal charges, the San Patricio County district attorney said Wednesday.

The Rev.Jesus Garcia, 37, left Mathis late on the night of Sept. 15, a few days after Santos Olivarez Sr. and Santos Olivarez Jr. told diocesan officials that Garcia had slipped narcotics into their food and molested them.

The Olivarezes told their story to District Attorney Tom Bridges days after Garcia's departure from Mathis, where he had served since 1986 as priest at Sacred Heart Church.

A story about the priest appeared in the Chronicle on April 24, and Bridges said he met with Corpus Christi Bishop Rene Gracida shortly afterward.

Gracida has not returned calls from the Chronicle about the case.

"He (Gracida) told me he had sent Garcia a letter late last week, telling him there were two warrants for his arrest here and that he should return to face charges," said Bridges.

Garcia was assigned to Gracida's diocese and, under church law, is required to go wherever he is told by the bishop or face being defrocked as a priest.

"Of course, they don't have physical control over him (Garcia)," said Bridges, "and I won't be surprised if he doesn't walk in here and turn himself in.

"Then, I guess we'll have to start extradition procedures. "

Gracida told Bridges that Garcia returned to his home in Spain Oct. 16, the district attorney said. The bishop told Bridges he allowed Garcia to go after Bridges said there was not sufficient evidence for a case, based on his initial contact with the Olivarez family.

By the time three other boys came forward with similar complaints, Bridges said, the priest was gone.

The families of the boys have accused Gracida and other diocesan officials of meddling in the case and helping Garcia escape arrest. The Olivarez family said Monsignor James McGuttrick visited them just before they talked to Bridges and told them not to tell the district attorney about other boys who had told the Olivarezes they were molested by Garcia. The family initially complied.

The Olivarezes and the three other youths sued the diocese in February and Santos Olivarez Sr. was stripped of his position as a deacon in the church. Since then, the families say, they have been ostracized in Mathis and priests from the diocese have criticized them from the pulpit.

Felix Cornejos, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, said he was molested in 1993, and that he reported the incident to Gracida in writing at the time. Cornejos said he was told that something would be done about Garcia. Cornejos moved from Mathis and did not see the priest again until he began attending the seminary in Corpus Christi a year later.

Then, he said, he found Garcia scheduled to speak to the students on morality. Cornejos was so disgusted he resigned from the seminary.

Bridges said Gracida had never mentioned any previous complaints against Garcia in his conversations with him.



A photo in Thursday's Chronicle was incorrectly identified as that of the Rev. Jesus Garcia, a former Corpus Christi-area priest accused of sexual abuse.


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