Retired Priest's Fate under Review

By Matt Surman
Press Enterprise [Riverside]
May 1, 2003

A retired priest who was accused of molesting two boys in the 1970s, but was not charged, will not be allowed to return to the ministry at least until a church board meets later this year to decide his fate.

The Rev. Peter Covas, a longtime Inland priest, was the subject of a year-long investigation after allegations by two men that he had sexually abused them three decades ago. One of the men later recanted, and prosecutors in San Bernardino County said earlier this month that they would not file charges.

The Rev. Howard Lincoln, the spokesman for the diocese, said current diocese officials learned 10 days ago that Covas had been arrested in the 1980s for public sexual misconduct in a video booth at a Fontana adult book store, and for another incident in Los Angeles County.

Neither incident involved children, Lincoln said.

Bishop Gerald Barnes met with Covas earlier this week, and they agreed that the priest would not attempt to return to active ministry, Lincoln said. The Diocesan Review Board will make a recommendation on Covas' status later this year after an internal investigation, he said.

"The bishop has told him his case will be re-examined," Lincoln said. "He is retired, but he has agreed not to engage in any public ministry."

Peter Scalisi, Covas' attorney, said that his client is innocent and would like to be back in the ministry and teaching Bible study.

"He is generally regarded as an outstanding teacher of the Bible," he said. "He has a tremendous amount to offer the church."

Scalisi said he could not comment on the 1980s incidents.

Lincoln said former diocese Bishop Philip Straling was aware of the Los Angeles County arrest but did not make any notes of the incident in Covas' personnel file.

Covas was represented in that case by Wilfrid Lemann, a prominent San Bernardino attorney who also represented the diocese. Lincoln said the church's current administration would not allow such a scenario.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.