The case involving the delayed removal of an active homosexual priest in Fresno, California verifies a recent statement by Bp. Joseph Tyson for the need to preserve from tampering any evidence indicating clerical maleficence.
At the bishops' general assembly in Baltimore on Tuesday, the bishop of Yakima, Washington emphasized that all allegations involving clerical sex abuse must be brought to law enforcement immediately so the evidence remains untainted.
"I know that when an allegation comes in, if law enforcement has not been contacted, we would contact law enforcement before opening a canonical process on an underage minor [by] the priest tied to the Dallas Charter and its essential norms," said Tyson. "I just want to make sure we are clarifying in a parallel way how we are first starting with law enforcement before launching a canonical process because we wouldn't want to be seen as tampering with police evidence."
Parishioners in Fresno, California, who have been trying to get homosexual priest Fr. Michael Lastiri removed from active ministry, learned the hard way. After parishioners at multiple parishes in the Fresno diocese fought for decades to have Lastiri censured, a savvy group in Hanford last year preserved digital evidence of Lastiri's homosexual proclivity and informed Church Militant which reported on it. Fresno's Bp. Armando Ochoa put Lastiri on leave just six days later.
Concerned Catholics at two parishes in Hanford — Immaculate Heart and St. Brigid — went to Bp. Ochoa of Fresno with showing Lastiri's history, which included:
Ochoa did meet with Lastiri but didn't remove him.
The so-called "Hanford group," encompassing parishioners of both local parishes, then noticed that some of this information was being deleted instead of being acted upon. A spokesman for the group told Church Militant that after submitting the information to the diocese, videos posted on Lastiri's YouTube channel began to disappear. Many of the deleted videos contained homosexual content.
The group, however, had copied the videos prior to sharing them with the diocese. The group then launched a website called ChurchPurify.com to expose Lastiri's homosexual activity. With this evidence secured and Church Militant's exposure of it, the bishop then took action against Lastiri, putting him on leave less than a week later.
Evidence is crucial in getting abusive priests removed from active ministry, as seen by the recent case of Bp. Richard Malone's diocese of Buffalo, New York. One of Malone's many cases that stand out involves Anthony Ravarini, who alleges he was abused by Fr. Dennis Riter when he was 6 years old, forced to perform oral sex on the priest in his rectory in April 1992, when Riter was pastor of Queen of All Saints parish in Lackawanna, New York.