An Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston priest has been removed from ministry after an allegation surfaced that he raped and impregnated a girl in South America, according to church leaders.
Jesus Suarez was suspended from his most recent assignment at St. Philip of Jesus Catholic Church on Villita Street in northeast Houston, according to an archdiocese statement. The complaint alleged that Suarez sexually assaulted a minor that “may have resulted in the birth of children” in his native country of Colombia before he immigrated to the United States in 1994 to serve as a priest, the statement read.
The archdiocese has since referred the complaint to the Houston Police Department, according to the statement.
HPD spokeswoman Jodi Silva declined to elaborate on the allegation because the priest identified by the archdiocese has not been charged with a crime.
“Investigators are following up on all tips received from the archdiocese,” Silva said.
Philip Wilhite, pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Conroe, identified Suarez as a former parochial vicar at the Montgomery County parish. He learned of the priest’s removal on Friday, he said.
“All prior assignment parishes and his present one are being advised so that if there was any sexual misconduct by him with minors in these parishes, those victims would contact civil authorities,” Wilhite wrote Saturday in a Facebook post.
He shared a letter from Auxillary Bishop George Sheltz, who is filling in for Cardinal Daniel DiNardo while he recovers from a stroke, that would be read during Mass on Saturday and Sunday at each of the churches where Suarez served. The memo identified the parishes as St. Vincent de Paul, St. Pius V, Sacred Heart and St. Cecilia.
The archdiocese did not say how long Suarez, who was not included in the Jan. 31 list of credibly accused clergy, served at each assignment and a spokeswoman declined to answer additional questions.
Suarez has been at St. Philip as early as 2010, according to a church bulletin.
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SOURCE: The Houston Chronicle, Nicole Hensley and Massarah Mikati