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Diocese of Stockton warns of dismissed priest still celebrating Masses

Leo Suarez previously worked as a priest at parishes in Stockton, Modesto, Hughson and Turlock before allegations of sexual abuse came to light.

STOCKTON, Calif. — The Diocese of Stockton is warning of a dismissed priest, accused of sexual abuse, who they say is still performing masses in private venues despite no longer being a member of the clergy.

Bishop Myron Cotta issued the warning Wednesday saying the diocese is aware Leo Suarez is celebrating masses and Quinceañeras in private homes and halls within the six-county Diocese of Stockton region.

"The Christian faithful are advised not to participate in these events or any ministry outside the parish church even if performed by a priest once ordained for the Diocese of Stockton," wrote Cotta. "It ruptures their communion with the Catholic Church and may, in some circumstances, result in the invalid administration of a sacrament."

Suarez, who first self-reported the abuse in 2009, was dismissed from the clergy in 2016 but stopped working for the diocese in 2009. An additional report of abuse was made against Suarez in 2014.

The abuse occurred in 1988 and 1996. Suarez previously worked as a priest for St. Anthony’s Church in Hughson, St. Stanislaus Parish in Modesto, St. George’s Parish in Stockton, St. Edward’s Parish in Stockton, Sacred Heart Church in Turlock and Our Lady of Fatima Church in Modesto.

Suarez is on the diocese's list of credibly accused priests.

The Diocese of Stockton is comprised of 85 priests serving 35 parishes and 14 missions in Alpine, Calaveras, Mono, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Tuolumne Counties. 

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