DAVIS (CBS13) – Parishioners had no idea of the arrest of a popular priest until an announcement was made at Saturday’s 5:30 p.m. mass.
Many at St. James Parish still can’t believe it was the priest they describe as friendly and popular.
“It’s the closest I’ve been to a priest or someone in the parish accused of something like this. I’m blown away,” said one parishioner.
Friday, officers arrested Father Hector Coria on charges of having sex with a teenager.
“I’m heartbroken because he’s such a dear person. I can’t believe it,” said another parishioner.
Davis police began investing 45-year-old Coria earlier this month after information surfaced that he was having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl. Police would not say if the girl was a member of the church, only noting that the alleged relationship occurred at the same time Coria was a priest.
The Diocese of Sacramento said it had received no complaints about Coria before police informed them of his arrest.
“We found out basically a few hours later and took the steps to remove him from ministry and he’s no longer living at the parish,” said Kevin Eckery, spokesperson for the diocese.
Coria was the number two priest at St. James, in charge of giving mass in Spanish.
Although pleased with the diocese’s quick response, parishioners at St. James are still reeling.
“We’ve been in this parish for 40 years and this is the first time anything like this has happened. It’s shocking and sad,” another parishioner said.
Coria is out on bail facing charges of statutory rape and oral compilation on a minor. He is currently on paid leave from the church, but has been stripped of all his priestly duties.