Former priest pleads guilty to molestations

February 13, 2004
Santa Paula News

A former Santa Paula priest pled guilty to three counts of child molestation of teenage brothers a decade ago while he was serving at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesA former Santa Paula priest pled guilty to three counts of child molestation of teenage brothers a decade ago while he was serving at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church.Carlos Rene Rodriguez, 48, will face up to 10 yeas and eight months in prison at his sentencing next month. He remained jailed Wednesday night in lieu of $150,000 bail.According to his attorney James Farley, Rodriguez entered the plea to spare his victims – between the ages of 13 and 17 during the molestations – from testifying.The molestations occurred between 1987 and 1993, according to Deputy District Attorney Anthony Wold.Rodriguez, who left the Archdiocese in March 1993, also admitted to two special allegations that he occupied a position of special trust as a priest during the molestations that included oral copulation and masturbation of the unidentified victims.Most of the molestations occurred at the home of the boys.During the time of the Santa Paula molestations Rodriguez was also a regional consultant for the Office of Family Life in Santa Barbara, where he lived at the Saint Mary Seminary.As part of the plea agreement with prosecutors, two additional sex abuse charges against Rodriguez will be dropped. His sentencing is set for March 12th.
Prior to 1988, Rodriguez worked as a priest at St. Vincent de Paul Church in downtown Los Angeles.As a priest at Our Lady of Guadalupe, Rodriguez met the alleged victims, brothers, through their parents, who attended a marriage encounter group.Santa Paula Police searched for Rodriguez when the new charges stemming from Our Lady of Guadalupe molestations were filed against him in August 2003; he was arrested in December.Rodriguez had been arrested before but previous molestation charges stemming from his tenure at St. Vincent de Paul were dismissed for being too old.Arrested in September 2002 on charges that he had molested a St. Vincent’s altar from 1985 to 1987, Rodriguez was held for 10 months while awaiting trial. He was released after the U. S. Supreme Court struck down part of a state law that allowed an extended statute of limitations on molestation charges.While some of the allegations from Santa Paula took place as many as 15 years ago, the Supreme Court decision didn’t affect them because the statute of limitations would not have expired until after 1994, when the law was initially passed.Rodriguez is one of two priests assigned to Santa Paula in roughly the same time period who are accused of molestations.Michael Wempe, 64, who served as associate pastor at St. Sebastian Church in the 1980s, has been charged in Los Angeles for molestations that allegedly occurred when he served as a Cedars-Sinai Medical Center chaplain. In about 1987, when Wempe was still an associate pastor at St. Sebastian Church, Cardinal Roger Mahony sent him to a sexual disorders treatment center in New Mexico.

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