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Sex Charges Filed Against Colton Priest

Apr 23, 2003 | AP A Roman Catholic priest from the largest church in the San Bernardino Diocese was charged Tuesday with sexually assaulting two boys more than 30 years ago.

The charges against Monsignor Peter Luque, 67, of Colton stem from allegations made last year that he sexually abused two boys between 1963 and 1969 while serving as a pastor, said John Kochis, San Bernardino County's chief deputy district attorney.

Luque was charged with one count of committing a lewd act, six counts of oral copulation and five counts of sodomy. He was notified by mail of the charges and ordered to appear in court on May 22 for arraignment.

Luque's telephone number was unlisted and he could not be reached for comment. The district attorney's office was unaware if he had obtained an attorney.

"We are saddened by these charges against a priest with so many years of outstanding service. We have trust in our legal system that these charges will be solved with justice," said the Rev. Howard Lincoln, diocese spokesman. "Our hearts go out to the many people who were affected by these allegations."

Two of the charges committing a lewd act and oral copulation stem from allegations that Luque assaulted one boy in 1963 and again in 1966, Kochis said. The other charges allege Luque assaulted a boy repeatedly between 1967 and 1969, he said.

The assaults allegedly took place at undisclosed locations in San Bernardino and Colton.

"We're not talking about specifics in the cases other than to say there was some contact in his role as a priest," Kochis said.

Lincoln also would not discuss the nature of the allegations.

The San Bernardino Diocese placed Luque on administrative leave in April 2001 after providing police one unreleased sexual abuse complaint naming him. A second victim came forward after the case was publicized, Kochis said.

Luque, who most recently served as pastor at St. Edward Catholic Church in Corona, about 45 miles southeast of Los Angeles, resigned as pastor in March. He remains a member of the diocese, Lincoln said.

Luque was well-respected by parishioners. In 2002, 2,000 people attended a Mass celebrating the 40th anniversary of his ordination.

Luque is the latest priest to face criminal charges in California.

In Downey, retired Catholic priest Michael Stephen Baker was ordered to stand trial on nearly 30 counts of sex abuse stemming from allegations he molested an altar boy throughout much of the 1970s and 80s. Baker has pleaded innocent and is free on bond.

Cardinal Roger Mahony, who leads the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, transferred Baker to several parishes after the priest allegedly told him in 1986 that he had molested young boys.

In Orange County, former priest John Peter Lenihan was arrested in March on sexual abuse charges involving an alleged relationship in 1978 with a 14-year-old girl who became pregnant and had an abortion.

Lenihan was charged with committing lewd acts on a child. His attorney, Ron Talmo, has said his client is innocent.

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