LA priest on leave for advocating gay marriage

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles has placed Father Joseph Palacios on leave from ministry because of his promotion of same-sex “marriage.”

Tod Tamberg, director of media relations for the Los Angeles archdiocese, confirmed to CNA Sept. 20 that Fr. Palacios was put on inactive leave in June.

Because of the mutually agreed upon leave, he is unable to say Mass or distribute the sacraments, may not wear a Roman collar, and cannot in any way present himself as a priest in public.

Fr. Palacios is a founding member of Catholics for Equality, a group which advocates for same-sex “marriage” and other social benefits for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals.

He has identified himself as “a gay man and a celibate gay priest.”

According to the National Catholic Register, he will be on inactive leave as long as he remains politically active. In a Sept. 10 interview with the paper, he said he does not present himself as a priest when promoting same-sex “marriage.”

However, in a Feb. 2011 panel discussion called “Same Sex Marriage in the United States: Where We Are as a Nation,” hosted by the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, he appeared in a priestly collar and was introduced as “Father Joseph Palacios.”

During the event, he said that the Washington, D.C.-based Catholics for Equality are trying to portray support for same-sex “marriage” as a pro-life position, adding that “pro-life means pro-gay.”

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, has publicly stated that the organization is not legitimately Catholic and Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the military archdiocese has made the same judgment.

Fr. Palacios is a priest of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, but has identified himself as an ex-Jesuit to the Cardinal Newman Society and elsewhere. He was ordained for the archdiocese of Los Angeles in 1987. He then entered the Jesuit novitiate in 1992, but left the Society in October 2004 without having pronounced final vows, according to the California Province of the Society of Jesus.

“Apparently, he was transitioning into the Society of Jesus at that time,” Tamberg said.

“It appears that he did not profess final vows in the Jesuit Community and remained (a) priest of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles,” the archdiocesan spokesman added.

Fr. Palacios is not identifiable as a priest on the Catholic for Equality’s website. He is described only as “Dr.” He holds a Ph.D in sociology from University of California Berkeley and attended St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, Calif. He was ordained for the archdiocese of Los Angeles in 1987.

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Former Pastor Of Simsbury Church Found Guilty Of Misdemeanor Sexual Assault

The former pastor of a Simsbury church has been found guilty of misdemeanor sexual assault for touching an 18-year-old man’s pubic area while administering confession.

The Rev. Edward Warnakulasuriya, 54, was pastor at St. Bernard’s Roman Catholic Church in the Tariffville section of Simsbury until his removal in July 2011, when the Archdiocese of Hartford learned that Warnakulasuriya was under investigation. The priest was arrested by Simsbury police on Aug. 11, 2011.

Warnakulasuriya was initially charged with three counts of fourth-degree sexual assault, but pleaded no contest Sept. 19 to a single count of fourth-degree sexual assault as part of a plea bargain.

Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Debra Collins sought a 120-day prison sentence and three years of probation, but Superior Court Judge Howard Scheinblum opted for no jail, according to a transcript of the sentencing hearing in Enfield. Warnakulasuriya will be on probation for three years.

“I want to put on the record that the reason I did not incarcerate the defendant is because I believe he will definitely be eligible for deportation, and I would be surprised if [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] did not deport him and also because of a very real potential for excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church,” the judge said, according to the transcript. Warnakulasuriya is a native of Sri Lanka.

The sexual assault to which Warnakulasuriya pleaded no contest occurred at the rectory sometime between December 2010 and January 2011, when the victim was 17 or 18. There were allegations of other sexual assaults, but those charges were dropped as part of the plea. The charge to which the priest pleaded no contest acknowledges that he was in a position of power or authority over the victim because he was his parish priest.

Collins told the judge that she was prepared to go to trial on all the allegations and that investigators had uncovered more potential victims.

The victim opted not to be in court for Warnakulasuriya’s plea and sentencing, Collins said. “They had spent, both his parents as well as him, numerous days with me interviewing, preparing for trial,” Collins said. “It was a very lengthy process. The state found him very credible, but it was long and detailed over the last two weeks. He has therefore chosen not to appear today.”

Warnakulasuriya pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor so was not eligible to be placed on the state’s sex offender registry, Collins added.

In church and public records, and in the criminal complaint against him, Warnakulasuriya is also known as Edward Tissera and W. Edward Julian Tissera. The archdiocese listed him as Edward J. Tissera. Before his appointment to St. Bernard’s, Warnakulasuriya served for several years as an assistant pastor at St. Martha Roman Catholic Church in Enfield.

Maria Zone, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said that Warnakulasuriya’s status had not changed. “He has been on administrative leave, which means he cannot perform duties as a priest, namely the administration of the Sacraments, since July 2011,” she said. “He will remain on administrative leave until further notice.”

The 18-year-old told police that he had visited Warnakulasuriya for confession at the rectory on several occasions between early 2010 and July 18 of this year, during which time the man told police that Warnakulasuriya had touched his pubic area.

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