Priest in Austin Resigns
S.A. Woman Tells Diocese She and Pastor Had Sexual Relations in the '70s.
By Peggy Fikac
San Antonio Express-News (Texas)
September 9, 2004
AUSTIN - A prominent Catholic priest known for his work in the Hispanic community resigned after the Austin diocese said he confirmed having sexual relations in the 1970s with a youth.
The actions by Monsignor Lonnie Reyes - who resigned as pastor of St. Julia Parish and no longer can serve in any capacity as a priest - were brought to light by a San Antonio woman.
She informed Bishop Gregory M. Aymond several weeks ago, the diocese said.
Aymond said the woman wished to remain anonymous, so the diocese would not provide details of what occurred.
"She's been through a difficult time. It's been painful for her, but she's divulged the deep, dark secret, which is going to be very important for her healing," Aymond said Wednesday.
"And it's also important to her that we are able now to act in order to prevent any kind of sexual abuse in the future with Father Reyes," he said.
Aymond said the San Antonio woman was between 16 and 18 during the time in question.
A statement from the diocese said Reyes confirmed relations with female minors, although the bishop said the diocese was still verifying their ages "to determine whether they were minors or young adults."
Reyes, 62, didn't return a telephone call to the parish he has led for 18 years.
Diocese spokeswoman Helen Osman said Reyes no longer will live at the rectory but will live in the diocese where "he can be monitored."
Former Austin Mayor Gus Garcia, who said he has been friends with Reyes for 30 years, said Wednesday that Reyes has been in Amsterdam, where he has a sister, for a few days.
Garcia praised Reyes' work on issues including education, strengthening his neighborhood and immigrant rights.
"If you had a spiritual issue to address, well, he was the one," Garcia added, saying he had been receiving calls "right and left" from Hispanics making that point.
If the allegations against Reyes are true, he violated his commitment to the church, Garcia said, adding, "I think if I read correctly what Jesus Christ said, we're supposed to forgive, and I don't even think I need to forgive him because he's always been my friend and he always will be."
Chris Lippincott of the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, stressed the seriousness of an adult having sex with a person under the legal age of consent, which under current law is 17.
"Any time an adult has a sexual relationship with a child, it's a predatory relationship," Lippincott said.
Osman said the diocese had submitted information about Reyes and the San Antonio woman to the San Antonio Police Department.
Catherine Babbitt, who heads the Bexar County district attorney's victim protection division, said the statute of limitations would bar prosecution of such an offense that occurred before Sept. 1, 1987, assuming Reyes had been in the state.
Reyes previously has served in parishes in Austin, Waco and Luling.
Asked whether the potential for a lawsuit came up in his discussion with the woman, Aymond said only, "A person always has the right to take legal action."
Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin, said he often went to Mass at the predominantly Hispanic St. Julia's, although he doesn't live in the east side parish.
"What has been reported is very surprising and even shocking to a lot of people, because for 20 or 30 years, people have known Monsignor Reyes for his wonderful work and his humane efforts for all people," Barrientos said.
"You really don't know what to say, because I don't know if all those things are true, and if they are true, how do you balance it out with the great work that he's done for so many years?"
Aymond said his goal is "to reach out to any victims and to offer the church's care and counseling" and to help not only abuse victims but "parishioners, whether they're here or wherever, who have been disillusioned by this."
On Wednesday, Anita Hernandez pushed her 82-year-old mother in her wheelchair so she could pray before a small outdoor statue of the Virgin Mary.
Her mother, Pauline Alvarado, is a parishioner, but Hernandez hadn't told her of Reyes' situation, so as not to upset her.
"We just cannot believe it would happen," Hernandez said. "It's really sad."
Monsignor Longinus Juventius Reyes
* Born: June 1, 1942, Lockhart
* Seminary: St. Mary's Seminary in Houston
* Ordained to priesthood: May 31, 1969
* Associate pastor of St. Louis Parish in Waco, 1969-1970
* Associate pastor of St. Louis Parish in Austin, 1970-1971
* Associate pastor of St. Julia Parish in Austin, 1971-1972
* Studied at Pastoral Institute of Latin America, Quito, Ecuador, and assigned to Special Ministry to the Mexican Americans 1972
* Vice chancellor, Diocese of Austin, 1973-1975
* Chancellor, Diocese of Austin, 1975-1986
* Administrator of St. John Parish in Luling, 1976-1977
* Pastor, Cristo Rey Parish in Austin, 1978-1982
* Pastor of St. Julia Parish in Austin, 1986 to present
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