2 Listed Priests Recalled Tainted Clerics Pastored in SB

By Selicia Kennedy-Ross
San Bernardino Sun
April 29, 2002


Two priests accused of molesting children at Inland Empire parishes served as pastors at two San Bernardino churches connected with Roman Catholic elementary schools.

The Rev. Peter Covas served as the pastor of Holy Rosary Catholic Church and Holy Rosary Academy from 1984 to 1990 and Monsignor Peter Luque served as the pastor of Our Lady of Gudalupe Catholic Church for about 12 years.

Luque, who was pastor of the church and the nuns who ran the Our Lady of Guadalupe School, left in 1979.

The priests are named as two of the four active priests whose names were included in 22 complaints filed with the Diocese of San Bernardino in the past 50 years.

The complaints, which involve 20 priests, were turned over to the San Bernardino Police Department by diocesan officials last week.

The allegations against the two priests did not involve students at either of the schools, said Rev. Howard Lincoln, spokesman for the San Bernardino Diocese.

After the allegations were made public, Covas, 70, resigned from his post as pastor of St. Peter and St. Paul Catholic Church in Rancho Cucamonga. Luque, 66, was placed on administrative leave from his position as pastor of St. Edward Catholic Church in Corona.

"He was going to retire in a couple of months,' Lincoln said of Covas. "He submitted his resignation in order to assist in the management and orderly transition of the parish.'

Former parishioners praised Luque.

Redlands resident Damian Negrete said he was shocked at the allegations against the priests. Negrete, 28, attended Holy Rosary Academy from 1984 to 1987 and also attended Sunday services at Our Lady of Guadalupe during Luque's tenure.

Negrete did not recall Covas as vividly as he did Luque.

"Father Luque was always the 'priests' priest' I mean he was a priest and that was it,' Negrete said. "He was holy and by the book. He always had a good reputation within the diocese.

"He always did what you'd expect of priests helping everybody who needed help. It never came up within my circle that he ever had any tendencies like that.'

Tony Bocanegra, who was a parishioner at Our Lady of Guadalupe for 46 years before moving to Redlands a few years ago, echoed Negrete's praise of Luque.

"He was brilliant man with high ethics,' said Bocanegra, who served on the church's finance committee during Luque's tenure. "In all my years at Guadalupe, he was one of the most inspirational priests I've ever known.

"This allegation does not fit with the man I know. I always admired him. When he left, it was a very emotional time. People wrote to the bishop asking if they would allow him to extend his term there.'

School officials at Holy Rosary Academy declined to comment on Covas' tenure as pastor.

Redlands resident Esther Murphy, who attended Holy Rosary from 1982 to 1987, remembered Covas' formal manner and way of speaking.

"I don't remember him being the friendliest person,' said Murphy, 29. "I remember him being more stand-offish.'

Mike Scannell, who has attended Holy Rosary Catholic Church for the past 32 years and whose daughter attended the school during Covas' tenure, remembered the priest fondly.

"I don't believe it,' Scannell said. "I'm not going to believe it unless the powers that be actually have concrete proof before I believe it. I thought that highly of Father Covas and have the highest amount of respect for him.

"I knew him to be very scholarly, well-versed in the Bible and Catholic teachings. He was very personable, very likable and the last person you would ever think of in this type of allegation.'

Alicia White, who attended Holy Rosary School from 1978 to 1986, said she was also shocked to hear of the allegations against Covas.

"I remember liking him,' said White, 29. "I remember him as a very stern priest, but I also remember liking him very much.'

Chris Corsentino, who attended eighth grade at Holy Rosary in 1986 and 1987, said he never witnessed Covas acting inappropriately.

"I always liked him,' said Corsentino, 29. "I didn't know him too well, but he seemed like a nice guy to me. I really don't know him well enough to pass judgment on him.'


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