This week’s arrest of the Rev. Angel Armando Perez, a Catholic priest assigned to St. Luke Catholic Church in Woodburn, marks the first time since the 1980’s that a priest of the Archdiocese of Portland faced criminal charges related to the sexual abuse of a minor.
At this time, it is unclear whether Fr. Perez, a native of Mexico and a permanent resident of the United States, is an incardinated priest of the Archdiocese of Portland. It is also not known when the priest began pastoral work in the Archdiocese or the background screening performed prior to his acceptance as a priest in the Archdiocese. What we do know is the following:
· A 12-year-old boy was found running from the priest’s residence in Woodburn late Sunday evening by a local resident who called police after Fr. Perez showed up following the boy. According to James Curths, the 12-year-old ran toward him scared and out of breath. He told Curths that someone was chasing him and that that man had touched him inappropriately.
· Moments later, the priest arrives and attempts to get the young boy to come over to him. Curths, who now was joined by his sister-in-law told the priest they were going to call the police.
· The young boy gave a detailed account of the alleged abuse to the police and Fr. Perez was arrested shortly thereafter.
· The Archdiocese of Portland has loaned the priest money in order to pay for his defense lawyer, a well-respected local attorney, Marc Blackman.
Whether Fr. Perez had had other similar sexual abuse allegations lodged against him in Mexico or other priestly assignments is not known. It seems apparent however that the parents of the child were not aware of any archdiocesan policies prohibiting overnight guests at a priests’ residence. The parish’s website lists another priest assigned to the parish but it is not known if that priest lives at the same residence as the pastor, Fr. Perez.
It seems that Fr Perez has or will admit wrongdoing here. The question remains, however, about what policies or procedures the Archdiocese of Portland had in place at this parish to prevent child abuse, and how well aware, if at all, the congregation was of those policies. As we have seen elsewhere, it does no good to have policies and procedures if congregations are not aware of or educated about them.