When a priest got into a car accident last Friday, the emergency workers tending to him stumbled on something they were not expecting.
Last Friday, Father Oscar Diaz of Santa Rosa, California crashed his car. When EMTs found him, his hip was fractured and he had other injuries. He also had bags of money in the back of his car, more than $18,300 that Diaz had stolen from his church's collections were in bags.
Diaz's church, Resurrection Parish of Santa Rosa, lost a lot more than that $18,000. A subsequent investigation of Diaz's home and office found another $77,000 he had stolen from the churches where he served.
Diaz has been a priest for 25 years and was connected to at least seven churches.
Bishop Robert Vasa, in a news release, said that, "This money was associated with Resurrection Parish in Santa Rosa where Father Oscar was pastor. After an initial investigation and several interviews, the police determined that the protocols surrounding collection accounting would make it difficult to arrive at sufficient proof of theft to pursue criminal prosecution."
Vasa added, "I am deeply grieved that this has happened and am deeply saddened that the parishes he was sent to serve have been harmed. The full extent of the theft is not known and may never be fully known but the Diocese is committed to determining as fully as possible the extent of the theft from each of these parishes."
Police are conducting an investigation, but Vasa stated that charges would not be filed by the diocese and that instead "canonical penalties" could serve the same purpose. He did note that he would not oppose the individual parishes affected if they chose to prosecute.
Meanwhile, Diaz is recovering from surgery on his hip. While he initially tried to tell police that the money was his salary, he has now reportedly admitted he stole the money. He has been suspended from the ministry and Vasa said that his future with the church is uncertain.
The Catholic Church usually defaults to "canonical penalties" instead of secular justice. That is the go-to method for dealing with any indiscretions committed by their priests, not just the sexual predators.
So I guess the church will be "punishing" Diaz by making him say a lot of Hail Mary's or something.