Lessons learned from shameful behavior

By Rodney J. Beede

As a longtime attorney in criminal defense, a lifelong resident of Davis and as a practicing Catholic, it is unusual to see all of the important commitments of my life challenged and judged in one case and in one Yolo County courtroom. The principles upon which I have tried to live for 64 years to family, community and faith seem attacked by the behavior of Father Hector Coria Gonzalez in his actions with an underaged, impressionable teenager.

The girl apparently is a member of our parish and participates as an altar girl. Coria had an absolute and sacred duty to treat her with respect, care and to realize that the young and naive look to their mentors for guidance and safety. As a 45-year-old adult, given great responsibility and authority, he was absolutely obligated to guide this child’s wonder and youthful curiosity positively and in accordance with common sense and Catholic faith.

Any mature adult who interacts and leads the very young must be on constant watch that the hero worship of those so impressionable not be subjected to personal advantage and abuse. It matters not at all who, between the child and this priest, initiated what is now admitted to be full sexual relations, continually over a lengthy period of time in an automobile and a bedroom in the church rectory.

Children on the verge of adulthood are challenging, adventurous and far too often reckless, propensities that adults, hopefully wiser and more mature, need to oversee and protect. Only one failed here, and it wasn’t the child.

So to this child I say, move on. You’re apparently off to college, sp consider doing this for me, our community and ultimately for yourself. Get on campus, grab your roommate and other new friends and explore your campus and new community, experiencing freedom with all its joys and personal responsibilities. Leave this priest in the rear-view mirror of your life.

Sure, you made a mistake; welcome to Adult Decision Consequences 1A. Become wiser for it and seek your future unburdened by all of this. And please don’t even consider that this sordid betrayer of his sacred vows is, in any way, your future.

My journey to date through this life has taught me many things, among them that once a cheater always a cheater. Willing to abandon everything he promised himself, our church and God, he’ll cheat again, and he’s probably cheated before. Trust me on this one.

To Father Coria, shame on you, for so many reasons. Have the courage you haven’t shown yet and remove yourself from this child’s life unconditionally and permanently. Leave her to become herself, go on with your life and strive to be honorable.

To a few of our parish who apparently lobbied my friends in the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office to abandon this prosecution, shame on you, too. This was not only morally reprehensible but illegal, and the insistence of prosecutors that this priest take legal felony responsibility with strict probation terms seems exactly the right result.

Tonight, on the same weekend this priest accepted the legal consequences of his actions, my wife and I will have the pleasure of dining with two friends from high school. They’ve invited Father Dan Looney, our longtime former pastor. His company will be enjoyed thoroughly by all with a bit of Irish whisky and good California wine.

By his words, deeds and the way he has led his life and kept his sacred commitments Father Looney will remind us of the worth and gifts of keeping ours. And in that reminder, the hit that commitment took from this sordid episode will heal.

— Rodney J. Beede is a longtime Davis resident and attorney, and describes himself as a “husband, father, grandfather, Catholic and citizen.”

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