YUBA CITY (CBS13) – A visiting priest from Colombia has been arrested on suspicion of sexual battery and molestation of a minor in Yuba City, according to the Diocese of Stockton.
“It’s horrific and with everything going on with the church right now it’s very saddening,” said one woman.
Rev. Julio Guarin-Sosa has been helping out at St. Anne’s Parish in Lodi. The Diocese says Father Guarin-Sosa had a letter of good standing from his Diocese in Colombia before he came to the U.S.
“It’s frightening because you think of a church as somewhere to have your children protected and that’s just crazy,” one man said.
As a result of his arrest and the charges against him, the Diocese of Stockton has revoked Guarin-Sosa’s permission to provide ministry in their churches. His Diocese in Colombia has also been informed.
Guarin-Sosa didn’t enter a plea in Sutter County court Tuesday as he was arraigned by video on charges of sexual battery and molesting a minor.
Yuba City police say Guarin-Sosa went to a home in Yuba City over the weekend to perform a private mass for a family. At some point he was left alone with a 16-year-old girl and that’s when, investigators say, the alleged inappropriate contact took place.
“We are so conscious of protecting our children and young people, then to have a new incident like this to happen was very, very distressing to me,” said Bishop Stephen Blaire, head of the Diocese of Stockton.
Some say that the letter of good standing was not enough, and a background check should have been performed.
When foreign priests come into the country, background checks are not required by the church and that has child abuse watchdog groups very concerned.
Blaire confirmed that background checks on priests visiting the U.S. are not required by the church.
“We don’t do an extensive background check. We just go on the word of the bishop,” said Blaire.
All they need is a letter of good standing from the visiting priest’s bishop or overseer.
“One has to believe that his bishop didn’t know anything,” said Blaire.
Tim Lennon is part of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), and believes the global Catholic Church should be more aggressive.
“As a parent, I’m aghast that they don’t do more,” said Lennon. “To get into the legalistic thing of what is a background check means they are doing an insufficient investigation vetting people that has access to their children.”
Lennon believes a good standing letter is pointless.
“They need to do more. Having something on the paper is insufficient,” he said.
So the question remains, do the foreign countries that send the priests do any kind of vetting?
“Most countries are probably not up to the same standards that we hold here in the United States,” said Blaire.
Following Guarin-Sosa’s arrest, Blaire says his Diocese will begin reviewing how to improve the vetting process in their church.
According to the Sutter County Sheriff’s Department website, Guarin-Sosa was arrested on Sunday. He’s being held on $250,000 bail.
A Yuba City Police Department spokesperson says Guarin-Sosa is in the country legally; however, immigration officials have placed an immigration hold on him in case he decides to leave the country.
Yuba City police say the name he gave at the time of booking was Julio Cesar Sosa Guarin.