“Celebrations of baptism, confirmation, and first Communion in outdoor locations like parks are not aligned with established Catholic practices,” the statement said.
Haight told CNA that the diocese is aware of only two imposters but is actively monitoring the situation.
She also said that the diocese doesn’t know whether any of the baptisms were valid or if real Communion hosts were used but said that “these are clearly ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’ and they have not been operating in good faith thus far.”
The real identities of the men remain unknown, she added.
The surrounding dioceses have been made aware of the scam but the Stockton Diocese hasn’t received any reports of similar fraudulence, Haight said. She added that the diocese would stay in communication with neighboring dioceses on the situation.
The first alerts of the scam came to the diocese through “the proactive efforts of our dedicated community members and parishioners,” Haight said.
“Their vigilance and commitment to the well-being of their neighbors played a crucial role in bringing this matter to our attention,” she added.
“We extend our heartfelt kudos and gratitude to those who promptly reported the suspicious activity, allowing us to take swift and appropriate action,” she said.
An earlier warning
Earlier this year, another warning was released by the diocese alerting the faithful about a former Stockton priest who was dismissed from the clerical state celebrating Masses in private homes.
That former priest, Leo Suarez, was dismissed from the clerical state in 2016 after being twice credibly accused of sexually abusing a minor. He self-reported at least one of the abuses to the diocese in 2009. A diocesan document shows that he was credibly accused in 2014 as well.
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The statement said at that time that the faithful were not advised to participate in any ministry run by Suarez “because it ruptures their communion with the Catholic Church and may, in some circumstances, result in the invalid administration of the sacrament.
“We have an obligation to educate our parishioners, and in no way would we want them to fall victim to those seeking to take advantage of them and their faith,” Haight told CNA at the time.
“As a diocese, we must protect the administration of the sacraments and our faithful,” she said.