A Roman Catholic priest working in New Mexico was arrested on a felony warrant charging him with 25 counts of child molestation while he worked at a Daly City church, police said Tuesday.
Police identified the priest as Jose Superiaso, 49, and said he was serving at St. Andrew Church in California when the molestation allegedly occurred eight years ago.
Detectives began investigating the priest after a woman, now 20, reported the alleged abuse. She alleged the molestation began in July 1994 and continued through November 1995.
Superiaso was ordained in his native Philippines. He served as a priest at Our Lady of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Belmont and at Our Lady of the Pillar Church in Half Moon Bay.
Authorities said Superiaso moved to Santa Fe, N.M., in 1998.
The Archdiocese of Santa Fe, based in Albuquerque, N.M., immediately placed Superiaso on leave pending further investigation.
“If it is determined that he is indeed guilty, he will have no further priestly ministry in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe,” Archbishop Michael Sheehan said Wednesday in a written statement. “The Archdiocese of Santa Fe has zero tolerance for sexual misconduct by its priests and employees.”
The cathedral issued a statement saying Superiaso has been admired and respected at the cathedral.
“If the allegations are not true, we pray for his patience in this moment of suffering. If they are true, we ask God’s forgiveness for a fallen brother and healing upon the victim,” the statement said.
Superiaso’s arrest “comes as a total surprise” because no complaint has been made against him in the three years he has been an associate rector at St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe, Sheehan said.
The archdiocese, which includes much of New Mexico, was rocked by sexual scandals involving priests in the 1990s, a decade before the scandals that made national headlines in recent years.
Sheehan was summoned from Lubbock, Texas, in 1993 to take over the archdiocese after the wave of priest sexual misconduct. He removed more than 20 priests from the ministry, dealt with more than 200 lawsuits or claims and ended up spending about $25 million to settle them.
The situation in New Mexico was worsened by a treatment program in Jemez Springs, where pedophile priests from around the country were sent for rehabilitation and entered the community.
Superiaso was arrested Tuesday in a Daly City cafe by police, who had arranged for his alleged victim to contact him and ask him to return to California to discuss the situation.
“He was lured up to the Bay Area, ostensibly to meet her in a cafe,” said Chief Deputy San Mateo County District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe. “She was nowhere around. Instead, he met the police.”
Superiaso was booked into San Mateo County Jail in Redwood City, with bail set at $2.5 million.