MANILA, Philippines – A Filipino priest who once served in Dallas, Texas, went missing after he allegedly committed sexual abuses against 3 individuals who were in their mid-teens more than a decade ago.
Suspended priest Father Edmundo Paredes, former pastor of the Saint Cecilia Catholic Church in Dallas, is believed to have fled to the Philippines. He is wanted by authorities.
It was the bishop of Dallas himself, Edward Burns, who disclosed this at the 5 pm Mass on Saturday, August 18, at Saint Cecilia Catholic Church.
This came in the wake of the 887-page Pennsylvania Grand Jury report that detailed sexual abuses by over 300 priests against over 1,000 children, mostly before the early 2000s. Paredes' case was not part of the Pennsylvania report.
Burns said the Diocese of Dallas learned of the allegations against Paredes in February. They "immediately filed a report with law enforcement agencies so that an investigation could be launched."
"The allegations came from 3 adults who said the criminal sexual acts occurred when they were in their mid-teens. The allegations were found to be credible," the Diocese of Dallas said.
"The Diocese of Dallas suspended Paredes and he no longer is allowed to function or represent himself as a priest," it added.
Paredes also once "admitted to financial misconduct with certain parish funds," the diocese said.
Paredes "had already been suspended and removed from ministry in June 2017 after admitting to financial irregularities," said the Dallas diocese.
The diocese said Burns was prepared in March to announce the sex abuse allegation against Paredes, "but there was concern for the victims who asked that it not be made public out of their great fear that it would compromise their anonymity in the community."
The diocese said, however, that "when the Pennsylvania report was made public, the Bishop believed he needed to inform the community of the allegations against the now suspended priest."
"Keep in mind that these allegations reported to and by the Diocese of Dallas were brought by adults who could have reported it to police themselves, but did not. The Diocese reported it as soon it learned of the allegations," the Diocese of Dallas said.
'Wolf in shepherd's clothing'
The search is on for Paredes in the Philippines.
"This past week, I received word from the authorities in the Philippines that they could not find or locate Father Paredes. So after learning that, we contacted two private investigators because it is important for us to reach out," Burns said in a press conference at Saint Cecilia Catholic Church on Sunday, August 19.
He said the diocese does not know when Paredes fled the United States.
Sought for comment by Rappler, Bureau of Immigration spokesperson Dana Sandoval said she will check on this case on Wednesday, August 22.
Father Marvin Mejia, secretary general of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, said the Diocese of Dallas has not contacted the CBCP on Paredes' case. Mejia said he does not know the diocese that Paredes initially belonged to in the Philippines, if any.
Rappler is also trying to reach individual dioceses to pin down Paredes' possible location. Father Reginald Malicdem, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Manila, said Paredes does not come from their diocese.
Burns said reactions to Paredes' case were a mix of "shock, tears, disbelief, dismay, frustration, anger, disappointment, gratitude for the presence of the diocese today, a commitment to move forward."
"When there is a wolf in sheep's clothing, that is startling enough. But when there is a wolf in shepherd's clothing, that is horrendous. Therein lies our great concern," Burns said.
Still, Burns reminded his flock, "Do not let any sinful man separate you from our Lord Jesus Christ."
The Philippines, the most predominantly Catholic country in Asia, is no stranger to sexual abuses by priests. In the early 2000s, two prelates – Bishop Crisostomo Yalung of Antipolo and Bishop Teodoro Bacani of Novaliches – resigned due to accusations of sexual misconduct.
The best-selling book Altar of Secrets, written by the late Rappler senior investigative reporter Aries Rufo, detailed these cases, and exposed a culture of cover-up and secrecy in the Philippine Catholic Church. – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org