Molestation Charges Face Ex-Inland Priest: Court: the Case against the Rev. Gregory Kareta Alleges Misconduct in Pismo Beach in the '70s

By Michael Fisher
Press Enterprise (Riverside, CA)
February 8, 2003

Prosecutors in San Luis Obispo have filed molestation charges against a former Riverside priest accused of sexually abusing a boy 30 years ago in Pismo Beach.

The Rev. Gregory J. Kareta, 79, appeared Thursday in a San Luis Obispo courtroom, where a judge agreed to postpone until March 3 the priest's arraignment on two counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child younger than age 14.

"Father Kareta is not guilty," his attorney, Adrian S. Andrade, said Friday. "These charges are older than some of my children, and I am concerned about finding witnesses and facts and statements."

Kareta served briefly in 1978 at Queen of the Angels Catholic Church in Riverside, and he worked at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Riverside from 1981 to 1984 before leaving to lead a church in Coalinga.

Kareta has not been accused of any misconduct in the Inland diocese, said the Rev. Howard Lincoln, spokesman for the Diocese of San Bernardino, which encompasses Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

But the allegations have prompted Bishop Gerald Barnes to issue a letter to be read at the two Riverside churches this weekend.

"The crime and grave sin of sexual abuse of minors is particularly abhorrent and can bring profound harm to victims," wrote Barnes, whose letter urges anyone victimized by a priest or church worker to contact his office or authorities.

Kareta, ordained 47 years ago, belongs to the Conventual Franciscan Friars order.

He worked at St. Joseph's Parish in Avenal from 1996 to April 2002, when the allegations surfaced. He was removed from public ministry by his order, according to Christopher Deitz, minister provincial of the order.

The charges allege that Kareta molested the boy at a Pismo Beach church during two consecutive summers in the mid-1970s, according to Larry Greene, a San Luis Obispo deputy district attorney. The alleged victim, now a Southern California man, reported his accusations in April 2002 to Los Angeles police, who forwarded the case to Pismo Beach police. Investigators there turned up "evidence corroborating substantial sexual conduct," Greene said.

The alleged victim's identity was not released.

A man who answered Kareta's phone Friday at the office of St. Joseph of Cupertino Province in Arroyo Grande said Kareta was unavailable, then hung up.

The abuse allegedly occurred between 1973 and 1975 in the rectory at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Pismo Beach, where Kareta served from 1971 to 1978.

Deitz said other allegations may exist.

"The circumstances of other alleged incidents are not clear to us at this time, though we have a report that indicates one of the abused minors was, at the time, a parishioner at Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in Hermosa Beach," Deitz said in a written statement.

Kareta worked at that church in 1964. Andrade, his attorney, said he was unaware of any allegations of misconduct in Hermosa Beach.


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