Saturday, February 19, 2011

Catholic priest put on leave in Orange

A priest at St. Norbert Catholic Church has been placed on leave pending an investigation into allegations of allowing a minister from another faith to have an active part in Mass services.
Ryan Lilyengren, a spokesman for the Diocese of Orange, said Father Augustin Escobar is alleged to have allowed a Presbyterian minister to receive and distribute communion during Mass on Sunday, Feb. 13.

A view of St. Nortbert Catholic Church in Orange. 
Father Augustin Escobar, a parochial vicar at the church, has been suspended from his duties and is under investigation for allegedly concelebrating with a Presbyterian minister.
"We do a lot of interfaith activities and have several Ecumenical services," Lilyengren said. 

"When a traditional Mass is celebrated, the church has rules to follow."

Lilyengren said allowing ministers of other faiths to take part in a traditional Mass is called concelebrating, a somewhat serious offense.

"If another minister is up there with the priest that is celebrating the Mass and they're kind of helping out, that's concelebrating," Lilyengren said. "They're involved in the application of the Mass."

Escobar, 56, has been part of the Diocese of Orange since 1996, according to a biography provided by the Diocese of Orange.

City Planning Commissioner Matt Cunningham has attended St. Norbert for 13 years and spoke highly of Escobar.

"He's very spiritual. You see him early in the morning praying and meditating," Cunningham said. "He gives good sermons. I think he's a good priest."

Lilyengren said he does not know how long the review process into the allegation will take.

"I don't think it will take that long," he said. "There may be some sort of censure that could take place at the end of the investigation."

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