Priest Faces Removal From Church Following Allegations of Sexual Misconduct - NBC Southern California

Priest Faces Removal From Church Following Allegations of Sexual Misconduct

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Priest Accused of Sexual Misconduct Toward Church Volunteer

    Father Ramon Palomera is facing removal from the church following allegations of sexual misconduct toward at least two women, including one who was a church employee. Colleen Williams reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. (Published Wednesday, May 10, 2017)

    The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has begun formal proceedings with the Vatican to defrock a priest who served at six different churches within LA, following allegations of sexual misconduct.

    Father Ramon Palomera's accuser is a devout Catholic and a single mother.

    "Rosa" had volunteered and worked for the Archdiocese of LA for nearly 30 years. The church was the center of her life.

    "I don't need the church right now," said Rosa. At her request, NBC4 is shielding her identity.

    Father Ramon Palomera was assigned as an associate pastor to Saint Francis Xaviar Church in Pico Rivera in 2014.

    "I consider him to be a sexual predator," said Ben Meiselas, an attorney who represents Rosa in a civil lawsuit against the LA Archdiocese and Palomera.

    The LA Archdiocese declined an on-camera interview, but responded quickly with an email.

    Media and Public Relations Manager Adrian Marquez Alarcon, confirmed that on Sept. 18, 2015, the Archdiocese "received a report by an adult female employee of inappropriate conduct involving Fr. Ramon Palomera."   Palomera was "removed from ministry that same day and has not been allowed to return."

    Meiselas said the harassment started with the priest asking Rosa to unpack a box filled with condoms and sexual objects, then progressed to touching his client's leg, groping, exposing himself and demanding sexual favors.

    "He say, 'You don't have husband. You don't feel like you need a man?'" Rosa said.

    For the first time Rosa shared sexually explicit texts she said were sent to her by Palomera.

    In one, he asks in Spanish - "are you home?"

    She replies "yes. Why?"

    Moments later he sends a photo of a penis and brags about it in Spanish. Through tears, Rosa said she almost killed herself and spent three days in a hospital, diagnosed with post-traumatic stress.

    Rosa brought her concerns to the Pastor, but felt he was not listening to her. Another priest, who discovered her crying would be the one to ultimately report Palomera.

    But Meiselas said the Archdiocese ignored warning signs.

    "There was a history," the attorney said. "All you had to do was open up Father Palormera's file."

    A restraining order was issued against Palomera four years earlier by a woman who claims she was "dating" the priest and that he had threatened her.

    The Archdiocese acknowledged that Palomera had a "multi-year relationship" with an adult female,” He was sent for treatment and upon his return had limited faculties until late 2012 when he was found able to return to a parish assignment.”

    Palomera was then assigned to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in El Monte.  In February of 2015 he was officially reassigned to St. Francis Xavier in Pico Rivera, where Rosa had already been working.

    Rosa's lawsuit has recently been settled and the terms are confidential. She has not returned to the church. Her garden now her sanctuary, where she prays surrounded by her roses.

    Rosa never filed a police report and no charges were ever brought against Father Palomera.

    The Archdiocese has begun the formal process with the Vatican to have father Palomera removed from the priesthood.

    Palomera's attorney acknowledged the process but declined further comment.

    "Every effort is made to assure that all persons ministering in the Archdiocese are aware of and abide by the policies prohibiting sexual harassment, exploitation or abuse, and of the procedures for dealing with such matters," said Alarcon.

    Changes have been made to church policy following years of allegations and criticism of how they were handled. So the Archdiocese for parishoners concerned about this behavior, the church issued this statement:

    "Over the past 15 years, the Office of Safeguard the Children of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has trained 300,000 adults in the VIRTUS® child abuse prevention and awareness programs and 1,413,000 children and young people in the children's program.  Also, a total of 168,000 adults have been fingerprinted."

    These are the churches Palomera worked at:

    • St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, Pico Rivera
    • Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, El Monte
    • St. Sloysius Gonzaga Catholic Church, Los Angeles
    • St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church, Los Angeles
    • St. Augustine Catholic Church, Culver City
    • Holy Family Catholic Church, Wilmington

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