Former Inland Priest Accused

By Michael Fisher
Press Enterprise
December 14, 2004

A former Inland priest who was a one-time personal aide to former San Bernardino Diocese Bishop Phillip F. Straling now stands accused of molesting six teenage boys, according to lawsuits filed in Los Angeles County.

Jesus "Jesse" A. Dominguez is accused in the litigation of sexually abusing three altar boys while he worked at Our Lady of Soledad Church in Coachella in the mid 1980s. He is also accused of molesting three boys at a Los Angeles County Catholic school during the 1970s, according to the three lawsuits.

Dominguez, now 55, could not be located for comment Monday. Known as Father Jesse, Dominguez was the subject of a 1984 stigmata investigation after blood reportedly appeared on his hands during a Mass at St. Edward Catholic Church in Corona.

The Rev. Howard Lincoln, spokesman for the Diocese of San Bernardino, said a review of Dominguez's personnel files did not turn up any past sexual-abuse complaints targeting the cleric, nor any correspondence or accusations from the three Inland accusers who are now suing.

Ordained in 1983, Dominguez spent more than a decade in the diocese, serving at churches in Corona, Coachella, Perris and Chino, Lincoln said. Dominguez's personnel file shows he and Straling had an agreement in July 1993 that put Dominguez on a leave of absence so that he could care for his family members, Lincoln said. Dominguez was later voluntarily removed from priesthood, Lincoln said, adding that he did not know where the former priest now lived.

The Lawsuits

He declined to comment on the lawsuits, in which Dominguez's three Inland accusers claim he sexually abused them while he was assigned to Our Lady of Soledad Church in Coachella and at St. James Church in Perris. The lawsuits accuse the diocese and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles of negligence and fraud.

Tod Tamberg, spokesman for the archdiocese, said officials there could not find any records indicating Dominguez had worked as a priest in Los Angeles County.

Katherine Freberg, attorney for all six accusers, did not return calls seeking comment Monday.

The names of Dominguez's accusers are listed on the court documents but are being withheld by The Press-Enterprise, which does not routinely identify people who may have been sexual-abuse victims.

In a lawsuit filed this month in Los Angeles County Superior Court, a 32-year-old man accused Dominguez of sexually abusing him between 1984 and 1988 at the Coachella church. The accuser was an altar boy at the church his family attended.

The abuse occurred in Dominguez's rectory room and continued after the priest was assigned to St. James in Perris, according to the lawsuit.

While assigned in Coachella, Dominguez and his pastor had "heated arguments" regarding Dominguez taking boys to his room and he was ordered to leave his door open when minors were in his room, according to the lawsuit. The pastor is not identified in the lawsuit.

In another lawsuit filed earlier this year, two brothers, now 34 and 36, accuse Dominguez of sexually abusing them when they were altar boys at the Coachella church between 1985 and 1988.

Dominguez came to the Inland diocese in 1978 when Straling, the San Bernardino Diocese's first bishop, appointed the religious brother to be his personal assistant. Diocese records show that Dominguez was a member of the Brothers of Charity, a religious order that no longer exists, Lincoln said.

At the time, Dominguez told The Press-Enterprise that he was surprised by the appointment because he hardly knew Straling.

'I'm Disappointed'

Straling, now the bishop of Reno, said by telephone Monday that he had learned of the accusations against Dominguez that day. He said no such accusations had been made in the past against Dominguez.

"I'm disappointed," Straling said of the accusations. "All these matters, I am very disappointed in them, especially if someone gets hurt and abused. ... I don't know anything about it."

Dominguez was ordained as a priest in 1983 and assigned to work at St. Edward. In March 1984, the diocese opened an investigation into reports that blood inexplicably appeared on consecrated bread and Dominquez's hands during a Mass at the church.

The stigmata, the appearance of wounds resembling the crucifixion wounds suffered by Jesus, reportedly appeared during a March 23 Mass. There were also reports of blood appearing on the Eucharist, the flat bread, on two previous Masses celebrated by Dominguez.

In June 1984, a diocese commission investigating the incident reported it was not of supernatural causes. "The commission believes the cause of Father Dominguez's bleeding was psycho-physiological, a physical occurrence related to a psychological cause and not miraculous or supernatural," the commission reported.

Dominguez, known for ministering to gang members in the barrio, was transferred that month to Our Lady of Soledad in Coachella.

In a 1983 Press-Enterprise interview following his ordination, Dominguez described being born in Chihuahua, Mexico. His mother, who was born in Needles, had moved to Mexico during the Depression but the family later returned to the United States in 1958.

He learned English at Our Lady of Talpa School in Los Angeles, where he described the priests at that time as "mean" and "strict."


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