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Dallas Priest Disappears Amid Molestation Allegations

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — A Dallas priest who's accused of molesting teens and stealing from his parish has gone missing.

St. Cecilia Catholic Church officials believe the Rev. Edmundo Paredes may have fled to his native country of the Philippines, The Dallas Morning news reported. He'd been a pastor at the church for 27 years.

Rev. Edmundo Paredes
Rev. Edmundo Paredes (CBS11)

Dallas police have found the sexual abuse allegations to be credible, said Bishop Edward Burns. Paredes is no longer allowed to function or present himself as a priest, he said.

The church first began investigating Paredes in May 2017 over allegations he stole $60,000 to $80,000 in cash from the parish. Paredes admitted to the financial misconduct and was suspended from the ministry and removed from the church in June 2017, Burns said.

The Catholic Diocese of Dallas wasn't aware of the sexual assault allegations at the time of the suspension, said a spokeswoman for the diocese.

Church officials then received allegations in February that Paredes molested three teenage boys more than a decade ago.

Burns disclosed the allegations to parishioners Sunday after consulting with the Diocesan Review Board, a group of non-clergy Catholics who counsel the diocese on matters involving the sexual abuse of minors. The information wasn't disclosed earlier because officials didn't want to hinder the police investigation or compromise the victims' identities, a church spokeswoman said.

The information follows a recent report from Pennsylvania that said more than 1,000 had been abused by the clergy since the 1940s.

The Catholic Church is hiring private investigators to find Paredes, Burns said.

The Diocese of Dallas released the following statement on the matter:

Reverend Edmundo Paredes had already been suspended and removed from ministry in June 2017 after admitting to financial irregularities. As reported the Diocese of Dallas immediately notified law enforcement as soon as the accusations of criminal sexual acts were made in late February, 2018.

Investigations take time and the diocese did not want to hinder the investigation by law enforcement. Bishop Burns was prepared to announce this allegation in March, but there was concern for the victims who asked that it not be made public out of their great fear that it would compromise their anonymity in the community.

Because he had not been at St. Cecilia or any other parish since June 2017, Bishop Burns tried to be sensitive to the victims' request. When the Pennsylvania report was made public the Bishop believed he needed to inform the community of the allegations against the now suspended priest.

When Bishop Burns spoke to media on August 14 about the Pennsylvania report, he told reporters then he would have more to announce once he met with the Diocesan Review Board, which he did on August 16. More importantly he wanted his first public comments on the matter to be to the St. Cecilia community before speaking with the media about the allegations.

Keep in mind that these allegations reported to and by the Diocese of Dallas were brought by adults who could have reported it to police themselves, but did not. The Diocese reported it as soon it learned of the allegations.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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