A priest who allegedly molested teenage boys and stole tens of thousands from his Texas church has gone missing, officials said.
Three adult men came forward in February to accuse Rev. Edmundo Paredes of abusing them when they were in their mid-teens more than decade ago, parishioners of St. Cecilia Catholic Church in Oak Cliff learned at Mass on Sunday.
The revelation was delivered by Bishop Edward Burns, who said Paredes, who served as pastor of the church for 27 years, was already under investigation for allegedly stealing between $60,000 and $80,000 from the treasury when the men came forward, the Dallas Morning News reported.
Paredes, who was known as “Father Ed,” has allegedly fled and his whereabouts are unknown, but church officials believe he may have traveled to his native country of the Philippines, Burns said.
Paredes was reportedly removed from the parish in June 2017 when authorities first began investigating financial irregularities. He allegedly admitted to church officials to having taken money, but did not reveal the exact amount he took, according to reports.
But the longtime pastor was believed to still be living on church grounds until Burns told the congregation he had fled.
Private investigators are being hired to track down Paredes, Burns said. He remained at the church on Sunday to speak with parishioners and speak at Masses.
"I need to come face to face with the frustration,” Burns told the Morning News. “I need to come face to face with this issue, with the anger, with the rage. I recognize this diocese cannot cover its ears, its eyes, its mouth. We need to look at this head on.”
Burns said church officials immediately contacted Dallas police after the three men came forward, and investigators found their allegations of molestation to be credible.
“Our priority was to determine the truth and protect the victims who showed courage by coming forward,” Burns said to the church. “With the utmost sensitivity to victims, I have pledged to continue efforts of transparency and need to make you aware of this atrocious and sad event.
“I want to assure the entire community that we are working to find solutions to create a safer environment,” he continued. “I offer my heartfelt apologies that these crimes have happened in your parish and please know I am praying for all victims of sexual abuse and for all of you here in the St. Cecilia community."
Paredes has not been charged by police with any crime.
Anyone who suffered abuses by church personnel is asked to report it to police and to the Diocese’s Victims Assistance Coordinator Mary Edlund at 214-379-2819 or firstname.lastname@example.org, the Diocese of Dallas said.
The confirmation of allegations against Paredes come one week after a 900-page report from a Pennsylvania grand jury revealed more than 1,000 children had been molested by 300 priests in incidents dating back to the 1950s.
Burns noted he served under two of the priests responsible for the abuses after he was ordained for the Diocese of Pittsburg in 1983.
“I was questioned years ago as part of the investigation into their wrongdoing. I can say now what I said then: that I never saw or knew of any sexually inappropriate behavior by these two men,” Burns said in a statement. “I remain angry and sorrowful over these gut-wrenching revelations in the report and vow to continue my efforts of transparency as the Chief Shepherd of the Diocese of Dallas. As always I ask you to please pray for all victims of sex abuse and for their loved ones. Please also pray for our many good and faithful priests who are suffering greatly from these most recent storms.”