Sunday, July 28, 2013
New Jersey priest arrested for molesting 14 year old girl
An assistant pastor at two Passaic County churches was arrested today and charged with luring a 14-year-old girl to his residence and trying to kiss her, officials said. The Rev. Jose Lopez, 34, was charged with luring a child, endangering the welfare of a child and criminal sexual contact in connection with the January incident, according to Passaic County Assistant Prosecutor Robert Holmsen. Lopez was a parochial vicar, essentially an assistant pastor, at St. Mary's Assumption and St. Nicholas churches in Passaic, said Richard Sokerka, a spokesman for the Diocese of Paterson. A native of Colombia, Lopez was ordained in 2011, Sokerka said. "The diocese is deeply saddened by these charges and offers its prayers to those who have come forward in this matter," Sokerka said in a statement. The 14-year-old girl was a parishioner at St. Mary's, according to Holmsen, who said Lopez lured her to his personal living quarters and began to advise her about some personal issues with which she was struggling. While sitting on a couch together, Lopez allegedly placed her on his lap and kissed her, Holmsen said. She attempted to escape several times, but Lopez pulled the girl back to the couch, Holmsen said. The girl was able to get away only after Lopez fell to the floor, Holmsen said. Sokerka said the diocese notified police after the allegations surfaced, and eventually placed Lopez on administrative leave. He has been living at a "non-parish church facility" away from minors since being placed on leave, Sokerka said. Sokerka said the allegations surfaced June 19, and a call was immediately made to the prosecutor's office. Lopez was placed on leave a short time later. Lopez faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the luring charge. He remains at the Passaic County jail in lieu of $50,000. Advocates called on church officials to look for other children Lopez may have abused. "We beg Paterson’s bishop to personally visit every parish where this priest worked and strongly prod any others who may have seen, suspected or suffered Fr. Lopez’s crimes to call police immediately," said David Clohessy the national director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "The bishop should shove aside his defense lawyers and public relations professionals and act like a caring shepherd, not a cold-hearted CEO."