Parishioners of St. Mary’s Church in Chilliwack are left with questions after the departure of a long-serving pastor accused of sexual misconduct.
In a letter sent to parishioners of St. Mary’s and Immaculate Conception Parish in Delta on Dec. 4, Archbishop J. Michael Miller said an internal investigation “confirmed that a number of accusations of sexual misconduct with an adult by Father [Nelson] Santos were well-founded, along with related inappropriate behaviour and comments.”
Described as a pastor at St. Mary’s and an assistant pastor at Immaculate Conception, Santos is ordered not to visit Chilliwack or meet with members of any Catholic parish where he served.
“Should he apply to work as a priest elsewhere, the local bishop would be informed of our investigation,” Miller wrote.
“To all those who were harmed in any way, I express my deep sorrow. I pray that the good Lord will heal all those hurt by these actions.”
Responding to a question by The Progress as to whether Santos’ alleged actions were being investigated by police or were allegedly criminal in nature, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Vancouver said in an email that Santos violated his vows and engaged in sexual misconduct with an adult.
Vicar general Father Gary Franken said that while Santos’ known actions do not appear to be criminal in nature, they involved and hurt individuals and the parish community as a whole, and “constitute serious abuse of trust and authority.”
Santos was removed from the parish shortly after complaints were received, and he was subsequently permanently removed from all ministry.
“The Archdiocese of Vancouver deeply regrets that there are those in the parish who suffered greatly from Father Santos’ behaviour, and we continue to encourage anyone who has further concerns about him to come forward.”
The Archbishop told parishioners to contact the independent reporting office at 604-363-7338 to report any incident involving Santos.
One former parishioner of St. Mary’s said she felt “this letter raises more questions than it answers.”
The Progress was unable to get in touch with Santos to comment on the letters from the archbishop.
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