Priest Admits He Groped Girl, 15
The Diocese of Orange Promptly Removes the Rev. Gerardo Tanilong

By Jeff Collins and Greg Hardesty
Orange County Register
January 31, 2004

A Catholic priest admitted in court Friday to groping a 15-year-old girl last July as her parents were chauffeuring him around Orange County to perform private religious ceremonies, officials said.

The bishop for the Diocese of Orange promptly removed the Rev.

Gerardo Jarencio Tanilong, 72, from its clergy, calling the crime "particularly heinous," a church statement said.

"I deeply regret the abuse of a minor and pray for the recovery of the victim and family," Bishop Tod D. Brown said.

Wearing a blue blazer, black dress pants and a collarless, cream dress shirt buttoned to the top, Tanilong changed his plea from not guilty to guilty during a pretrial hearing in Fullerton, conceding that he committed two felonies of sexually abusing a minor.

Superior Court Judge Richard Stanford Jr. set sentencing for April 2.

He faces up to 44 months in prison, said Deputy District Attorney Sheila Hanson, although he could go free on probation, too.

His lawyer and church officials have said Tanilong had a spotless record during his 17 years as an Orange County priest and for 24 previous years in the ministry in his native Philippines.

Parishioners at Our Lady of Guadalupe-Delhi, where he was assigned, said they believed Tanilong was incapable of wrongdoing.

The crimes occurred July 12 as the victim and her parents drove Tanilong to a series of private Masses, Hanson said. Prosecutors said Tanilong groped the girl while the two sat in the back seat of the car, and she told her parents about it after returning home.

The crime "was a horrendous violation of trust," Hanson said. "We're gratified that justice will be done."

Tanilong declined to comment. His lawyer couldn't be reached for comment.


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