North Shore priest removed from pulpit |

North Shore priest removed from pulpit

The Rev. Enrique Perez of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary parish encompassing Kings Beach and Truckee was placed on leave after a sex-related allegation was made against him, according to the Sacramento Diocese.

Catholic Church policy “calls for the person to be on leave while allegations are investigated,” said diocese spokesman, the Rev. James T. Murphy. “The bishop’s office staff is looking into the allegation.”

Murphy declined to comment on the specifics of the accusation, but stressed there was no criminal activity involved. Parishioners said Perez announced Oct. 13 in his last Mass at Our Lady of the Lake Church in Kings Beach that he had been placed on leave and would be traveling out of state.

The following Sunday, a visiting Sacramento priest reportedly told parishioners Perez had been accused of having “illicit relations with an adult,” suggesting the alleged incident violated church vows but not federal laws.

Church officials would not say whether sexual harassment or abuse was alleged, but Murphy said law enforcement has not been part of the church investigation so far. “Our policy calls for working in tandem with law enforcement if the law calls for that, if there’s criminal conduct involved,” he said.

Murphy emphasized that the alleged incident did not involve a minor.

Parishioner and church group leader Patricia Sarmiento said many Kings Beach churchgoers were shocked by the news. “A lot of people just don’t believe it happened, and some others are spreading rumors about things (Perez) may have done,” she said.

Kings Beach parishioners are organizing to support the priest.

Sarmiento and other members of Our Lady of the Lake congregation have written a letter to Bishop William K. Weigand in Sacramento expressing support for Perez. Between 50 and 60 people signed the letter before it was sent to the bishop’s office this week.

Perez, stationed in Tahoe since 1998, is known in Kings Beach as a community leader who gets things done. “He did more for the community than any other priest we’ve had,” Sarmiento said. Supporters cite Perez’s efforts to send youth to retreats in Sacramento, bring the Mexican consulate to Kings Beach and collaborate on projects with community organizations.

Diana Cristales, who frequently attended Perez’s Masses, said, “he’s done amazing things for this community, and we’re all very saddened because he was one of the few people who could relate to the community on a special level.” Cristales and her fiance are planning to be married by Perez if and when he returns.

Pending results of the investigation, visiting priests fill in for Perez and parishioners continue to wonder about the allegation.

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