Some Pray for Priest's Return : St. Edward: Parishioners Hear Monsignor Luque Plans to Come Back after Molestation Allegations
By James Nash
Press Enterprise [Riverside CA]
June 13, 2002
Monsignor Peter Luque, on leave from St. Edward Catholic Church over sex-related allegations, wasn't at his church Wednesday night to hear parishioner after parishioner call for his return.
But Luque, in a letter read to more than 150 people in a special meeting called to address his absence, signaled his intention to return to a parish that some described as baffled and heartbroken over his departure.
Luque, who has been at St. Edward since 1994, was placed on leave in April over allegations that police and officials from the Diocese of San Bernardino have declined to specify. In a letter read at the meeting Wednesday night, Luque thanked parishioners for their prayers and support and urged them to support the Rev. George Gonzales, the interim priest. Luque left no doubt about his plans to return.
"Your care has brought me to a state of peace and hope," he wrote. "I am well."
Parishioners, however, were more conflicted. Some urged the diocese to reveal the allegations against Luque, while others argued that disclosure would only feed the media firestorm engulfing the Catholic Church.
Announcements made at the church and reporting in the media sounded damning to parishioners.
"The way it sounded, it sounded like he was guilty," Maria Diaz said. "We don't know that."
Wednesday's meeting was called so parishioners and church leaders could discuss their reaction to the absence of Luque, who was suspended six weeks ago over allegations of sexual abuse. Luque, 66, has served 40 years in the Diocese of San Bernardino -- the past eight at St. Edward.
Parishioners were told at Mass April 28 that Luque had been placed on administrative leave over allegations that he had molested children. The announcement came two days after officials from the Diocese of San Bernardino said they were turning over information on allegations involving 20 priests to the San Bernardino Police Department.
San Bernardino police forwarded information on three accused Corona priests -- Luque and two unidentified retired clergymen -- to the Corona Police Department [SEE CORRECTION], said Corona Capt. John Dalzell. None of the priests has been arrested or charged, and Dalzell declined to give specific information on the investigation. [SEE CORRECTION] Police and church officials have not elaborated on the allegations against Luque. The suspended priest has not responded to requests for comment, including a message left on his phone Wednesday.
Luque will remain on leave until Corona police conclude their investigation, said the Rev. Howard Lincoln, a diocese spokesman. Dalzell said he expects the investigation to be done within a month.
CORRECTION-DATE: June 15, 2002
CORRECTION: Because of erroneous information provided by Corona police, it was incorrectly reported Wednesday [Thursday] that the Corona Police Department is investigating allegations against Monsignor Peter Luque of St. Edward Catholic Church. Another department is handling the investigation because the alleged misconduct did not occur in Corona, Capt. John Dalzell, said. ( CB)
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