Bombshells in a priest’s past

Early in 2001, a young priest arrived in Southern California after being asked to leave his diocese near Rome.

The Rev. Fernando Lopez Lopez first went to the San Bernardino diocese, where a monsignor found it odd that he would show up unannounced, with no letter of explanation from his bishop.

The monsignor checked with church officials in Italy and was told Lopez Lopez had been asked to leave his post. When the monsignor confronted Lopez Lopez with this information, the priest admitted he had been asked to leave because of complaints from parishioners in Tivoli that he was involved in drug activity with young men in the church. There were also reports the priest was “homosexually involved with some of the young men of the youth group.” Lopez Lopez denied the allegations and also said the youths in question were over 18.

The monsignor in San Bernardino refused to assign the priest to duties in the diocese and suggested he go back to Italy. Instead, Rev. Lopez Lopez headed farther west and decided to try his luck with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

This time, even as L.A. church officials were trying to stem a spreading sexual abuse scandal, he wasn’t met with the same level of suspicion and didn’t admit to his past. And for unknown reasons, the same Italian bishop who told San Bernardino that Lopez Lopez had been asked to leave, this time signed a form for the L.A. Archdiocese indicating there were no problems in the priest’s past.

Rev. Lopez Lopez got the job and was assigned to St. Thomas the Apostle near Koreatown, where he was routinely in contact with minors. It was there, over the next three years, that he repeatedly molested three teenagers, including two minors. He was convicted in 2005 and sentenced to prison, then deported upon his release to his home country of Colombia.

– Steve Lopez


Despite priest’s dark past, he was given ample time to find new victims (Los Angeles Times)