The response to the Rev. Hector Coria’s arrest for statutory rape and oral copulation with a minor has been swift, as news of the priest’s arrest reached Davis’ St. James School and parish.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento has placed the priest on administrative leave, and Coria’s photo has been taken down from the St. James Catholic Church website.
No new priest has been assigned to the parish, and St. James hasn’t yet found anyone to fill in for the Spanish-language Mass on Sunday, said the Rev. Peter Bosque.
Parishioners, understandably, are aghast. Rich Collins, a member of St. James for 15 years, said the news came less than a week after Coria delivered a touching homily.
“He was talking about friends and community and family. … It was very touching, I had tears in my eyes, the way he said it,” Collins said.
As a child, Collins coincidentally attended Coria’s previous parish, Carmichael’s Our Lady of Assumption, though Coria did not serve there until 2012. Collins met his wife there and the couple were married there, before they joined St. James.
“It’s just tragic when these human weaknesses can rear their heads. … It’s just hard. It’s just hard,” Collins said. “There’s so much good that goes on there, so many good people there. It’s just mind-boggling.”
Yolo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Raven said the office has not yet received the Davis Police Department’s reports in the case and thus has not made any charging decisions yet. Coria doesn’t have any sort of law-enforcement history in Yolo County — not even a traffic ticket.
No arraignment date for Coria has been set yet, Raven said.
Police began investigating the sexual abuse charges against Coria, 45, earlier this month, a department spokesman said. Coria allegedly befriended the 17-year-old female victim in late 2013, police said.
“In late 2013, Father Coria began a sexual relationship with the minor and engaged in that sexual relationship on multiple occasions since 2013,” a department news release said.
On Friday, Davis police served search warrants at multiple locations and subsequently arrested Coria. He was booked into the Yolo County Jail on Friday but is free on bail.
The Rev. Michael Kiernan took over as head priest at Our Lady of Assumption in July 2012 and said Coria likely was reassigned because the parish didn’t have a Spanish-language Mass and Kiernan prefers to work alone.
— Enterprise staff writer Lauren Keene contributed to this report.