Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Priest accused of abuse removed from ministry

A Catholic priest accused of sexual misconduct with a 13-year-old boy in the 1980s has been permanently removed from the ministry after a diocesan investigation found the allegation credible, church officials announced Monday.

The Rev. Francisco Hernandez-Tovar, 59, will no longer be allowed to work as a priest in the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento or any other diocese. Bishop William Weigand barred Tovar from the ministry at the recommendation of a diocesan review board.

"Right now, we're in the process of looking for more victims if there are any," said Kevin Eckery, diocesan spokesman. "The person who came forward is a very brave man."

The alleged victim, now in his 30s, claims Tovar sexually abused him at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Colusa more than two decades ago. The man told church officials about the alleged sexual misconduct last summer. A church review board investigated the allegation and found it had merit after interviewing the man, according to Eckery.

Diocesan leaders have informed Colusa County law enforcement officials about the allegation. "There's nothing we can do because the statute of limitations has run out," said Sgt. Kevin Erdelt of the Colusa County Sheriff's Department. He said there have been no other complaints against Hernandez-Tovar.

Diocesan records show that he has served at a number of parishes since 1980, including St. John the Baptist in Chico (1980-86), Sacred Heart in Red Bluff (1980-86), Our Lady of Lourdes in Colusa (1986-88), Sacred Heart in Maxwell (1986-88), Assumption in Truckee (1988-99), Our Lady of Guadalupe in Sacramento (1999-2000), St. Peter in Sacramento (2000-02), St. Joseph in Rio Vista (2002), St. Catherine in Vallejo (2003), St. John in Sacramento (2003-07), St. Paul in Rancho Cordova (2003-07), Saint Isidore in Yuba City (2007) and Our Lady of Lourdes in Sacramento (2007).

Due to ill health, he has worked part time or on temporary assignment since 2002. Now he will no longer receive a salary or be allowed to live in residence at a church.

Hernandez-Tovar could not be reached for comment.
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