Portland, Ore., Aug 17, 2012 / 02:19 am (CNA).- A priest in the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., has been arrested and is facing accusations of sexually abusing a young boy, stunning the local community.
“This is a very tragic and sad situation for all involved,” said Bud Bunce, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Portland.
Bunce told CNA on Aug. 16 that the archdiocese is asking for prayers for everyone affected by the incident and for all parishioners during this difficult time.
Fr. Angel Perez, the 46-year-old pastor of St. Luke Catholic Church in Woodburn, Ore. was arrested on Aug.13 following a complaint to police about alleged inappropriate contact early that morning.
Court documents indicated that the alleged victim, a 12-year-old boy whose identity has not been made public, said that he had been spending the night at the priest’s home when the incident occurred.
According to reports, the boy told his family members that Fr. Perez gave him beer and touched him inappropriately. He also said that the priest touched himself inappropriately and possibly took pictures with a cell phone camera.
The pastor is now faced with charges of sexual abuse, using a child in a display of sexually explicit conduct and providing alcohol to a minor.
Bunce said that many parishioners were stunned by the news, and some are continuing to show support for Fr. Perez.
The assistant parochial vicar will take over celebrating Mass and other sacraments at the parish, and an additional priest will be sent to help with the weekend schedule until future arrangements can be made, he added.
Born in Jalisco, Mexico, Fr. Perez was ordained in 2002 as the first priest of Mexican descent in the Archdiocese of Portland. He has served since 2008 as the pastor of St. Luke Parish, where he regularly draws large crowds at the weekly Spanish-language Mass.
Some 50 supporters filled the courtroom on August 15 as the pastor briefly appeared.
In interviews with the local media, parishioners described Fr. Perez as a “strict” and “respectful” priest who was very attentive to the people’s needs, always willing to do hospital visits and celebrate the sacraments.
They said that he had not shown signs of inappropriate behavior, but had united the Spanish and English-speaking populations within the community and helped the parish flourish.
Monsignor Richard Paperini, who was president of Mount Angel Seminary during Fr. Perez's final year there, told the Oregonian that he was “in absolute shock” over the news.
He explained that throughout a careful screening process, Fr. Perez had never displayed “any tendency toward children in an inappropriate way.”
The Oregonian said that such cases against priests in the state are rare and cited a 1983 incident as “the first and only time a Catholic priest has faced criminal charges in Oregon.”