ORANGE, Calif. -- A lawyer-turned-priest was appointed Monday as Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Orange, whose former auxiliary bishop joined the Diocese of Sacramento in 2007.
When the Rev. Cirilo Flores, pastor of St. Norbert's Church in Orange, is installed on March 19, he will become the diocese's second auxiliary bishop. His principal focus will be to assist the bishop in the administration of the diocese, spokesman Ryan Lilyengren said.
The diocese's current auxiliary bishop is The Most Rev. Dominic M. Luong.
Flores replaces Auxiliary Bishop Jaime Soto who was appointed as Coadjutor Bishop for the Diocese of Sacramento on Oct. 11, 2007.
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The announcement was made by Pope Benedict XVI in recognition of the growth and increasing administrative needs of a diocese that has seen its Catholic population swell to more than 1.2 million parishioners since its inception in 1976, Lilyengren said.
Orange Diocese Bishop Tod D. Brown said the diocese has "benefited from the pastoral care and unique gifts offered by Bishop-elect Flores over his 18 years of service to orange County,"
"The Holy Father has rightly chosen a dynamic leader and capable pastor to assist me in the care of our Catholic family," Brown said. "I look forward to his unique insight and profound understanding of the many diverse communities that make our diocese so culturally rich."
But Flores' name evoked disappointment on the part of advocates for victims of molestation by priests.
Attorney John Manly said the appointment "is troubling, given Fr. Flores' deep and long-standing involvement with clergy personnel decisions in the Diocese of Orange."
He said Flores has served on the Diocese Clergy Personnel Board since 1995. That board's function has been to recommend the appointment, transfer and removal of priests.
"This board, with the blessing of the diocese, makes appointment of priests to parishes, including those with elementary schools and children's programs," Manly said.
During his tenure, numerous admitted and alleged child molesters were appointed to positions where they had direct and unfettered access to children, Manly said.
"Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, there is no evidence whatsoever that Fr. Flores had ever attempted to disclose to law enforcement the names of numerous molesters allegedly operating within the Diocese of Orange," Manly said.
"It was not until the diocese was forced as a condition of a civil settlement that the diocese disclosed the names of perpetrators and removed them from ministry," he added.
Manly said that Flores may have many outstanding qualities, but none "really matter when one has failures related to the protection of children."
Joelle Casteix, a regional director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, called the appointment disappointing.
"The fact that he is a civil lawyer only creates the perception that the diocese sees victims and advocates as enemies and wants a lawyer in the highest levels of the hierarchy...," Casteix said.
Lilyengren disputed those contentions.
"If you look at what was involved in the global settlement (reached with victims of molestations in early 2005) many cases go far back, beyond 1995," Lilyengren said.
"We need to focus on what his background really is, a very competent pastor," Lilyengren said. "This is a really good time for the diocese. His appointment is based on a very strong background and he will do well, continuing the policies of protecting children."
Flores, who speaks Spanish, graduated from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and from Stanford University School of Law before he entered St. John's Seminary in Camarillo in 1986.
He was ordained to the priesthood on June 8, 1991 and his first assignment was as Parochial Vicar at St. Barbara Parish in Santa Ana.
He served in parishes in Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, and La Habra.
He will be ordained as auxiliary bishop at St. Columban's Church in Garden Grove.