A Texas priest under investigation for sexual abuse has disappeared, the Diocese of Dallas announced this week. Officials believe he may have fled to his native country, the Philippines.
Father Edmundo Paredes was the pastor at St. Cecilia Catholic Church in Oak Cliff, Texas, before he was investigated by the church last year for stealing from the parish. Paredes acknowledged financial irregularities and was suspended from ministry in June 2017, the diocese said in a statement.
Church leaders suspect the priest took an estimated $60,000 to $80,000 during his 27 years at the parish.
At the time of his suspension, the Church had no knowledge of abuse allegations, the diocese said.
In February 2018, the Diocese of Dallas was informed of allegations that Paredes had molested three teenage boys between 10 and 20 years ago. The diocese said that it “immediately filed a report with law enforcement agencies so that an investigation could be launched.”
The allegations have been deemed credible, and the Church has hired two private investigators to locate the missing priest, Dallas Bishop Edward Burns said. The Church has also been in contact with the Filipino authorities.
Bishop Burns informed parishioners at St. Cecelia of the allegations against Paredes at Mass over the weekend. He remained after Mass to meet with parishioners.
Father Paredes has been banned from functioning or representing himself as a priest, the bishop said.
In a statement, the diocese said it had not made the allegations public sooner because it “did not want to hinder the investigation by law enforcement.”
“Bishop Burns was prepared to announce this allegation in March, but there was concern for the victims who asked that he would be committed to his anonymity in the community,” the diocese said.
“Because [Paredes] had not been at St. Cecilia or any other parish since June 2017, Bishop Burns tried to be sensitive to the victims’ request. When the Pennsylvania report was made public the Bishop believed [he] needed to inform the community of the allegations against the now suspended priest.”
During Mass, Bishop Burns vowed to be transparent, with respect to the victims’ privacy, and offered his prayers and sympathy to the victims and community.
“With the utmost sensitivity to victims, I have pledged to continue efforts of transparency and need to make you aware of this atrocious and sad event,” he said.
“I offer my heartfelt apologies that these crimes have happened in your parish and please know I am praying for all victims of sexual abuse and for all of you here in the St. Cecilia community.”