Priest who stole $80,000 from parish on the run after 'credible' sexual abuse allegations surface
The church had started their investigation into Paredes in May 2017 after they received allegations that he had stolen between $60,000 to $80,000 in cash from the parish
Roman Catholic Church officials have announced that a priest from Dallas who has been accused of molesting three men when they were teens and stealing at least $60,000 from his parish is currently missing. Reverend Edmundo Paredes served at the St. Cecilia Catholic Church for 27 years. Parishioners at the church said on August 19 that the priest may have gone back to his native country of Philippines where he normally goes during his annual vacation. The parishioners were informed by Bishop Edward Burns that the Dallas Diocese has hired two private investigators to find Paredes. He said: "Now that we know of his criminal sexual acts, we want to get a handle on him."
The church had started their investigation into Paredes in May 2017 after they received allegations that he had stolen between $60,000 to $80,000 in cash from the parish. The bishop said that Paredes had confessed to the misconduct and had been suspended from the ministry and subsequently removed from the church in June last year, reported USA Today.
On June 1, 2017, the church had a Mass for Paredes in celebration of him. The Facebook post that detailed the mass has since been taken down from the church's social media page. In February this year, officials from the church heard allegations of Paredes molesting three teenage boys more than 10 years ago. Burns said that the diocese officials filed a report with the authorities to begin a criminal investigation. Annette Gonzales Taylor, a spokesperson for the diocese, said that the diocese had not been aware of the sexual assault allegations when Paredes was suspended.
Burns said: "The allegations were found to be credible." The bishop also said that Paredes cannot administer the sacraments or even represent himself as a priest anymore. He spoke to the parishioners on August 19 and told them about the allegations after he consulted with the Diocesan Review Board, which is a group of non-clergy Catholics who counsel the diocese on issues that involve the sexual abuse of minors. Gonzales Taylor said that the information had not been made public before because the diocese officials did not want to get in the way of the police investigation or reveal the identities of the victims.
After a grand jury in Pennsylvania released a 1,400-page report with sexual abuse allegations against 301 priests, however, Burns said that telling the parishioners from Paredes' former church was crucial. Members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests came out and said that Burns waited too long before informing the parishioners.
The Dallas chapter leaders of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, Lisa Kendzior and Paul Petersen, said in a statement: "Why would Bishop burns suppress this crucial information? Was it to protect the diocese from scandal? What about concern for the safety of children and the need to comfort any survivors? Where is the transparency that the Catholic bishops promised?"
After the Mass got over on August 19, 61-year-old Sylvia Segura spoke to The Dallas Morning News and said that she became emotional after she heard the news about Paredes. She said that she had expected to hear a statement of solidarity when the bishop's letter was being read from the pulpit and was shocked when she found "out that it was in our very own house that it had happened". She added: "It was very, very hard."