.- Bishop Daniel Walsh of the Santa Rosa pledged never again to delay notifying authorities of priest misconduct.
He made the statement in a written apology issued to parishioners this weekend. In it, he admitted to waiting four days to notify authorities when a local priest owned up to having sexual relations with young boys, reported the Register.
Under the law, a bishop is required to notify authorities as soon as he is aware of such misconduct. Instead of going directly to police, the bishop contacted the dioceseâs lawyer and asked him to file the report. In the meantime the priest, Fr. Xavier Ochoa, is believed to have fled to Mexico.
"As the district attorney reviews the actions of all involved in this horrible situation, my admission of failing to report the case immediately could cause me to be charged with a misdemeanor having the potential penalty of six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine," Bishop Walsh wrote in a message to parishioners. "If I am found guilty for not taking immediate action, I will accept whatever punishment is imposed."
Bishop Walsh has said that he was trying to balance the removal of Fr. Ochoa from ministry and the proper legal steps with his diocesan attorney instead of making the correct immediate step.
In his message, the bishop apologized âfor the tarnish it has placed on the reputation of the church and the clergy, as well as for the questions it has raised regarding our credibility and the church's policy of zero tolerance of sexual abuse."
"I can assure you that it is a mistake that I will not repeat,â he wrote. âI will ensure that in the future, all mandated reporters in our church obey the law or be removed from service."