California priest steals more than $97,000 in community contributions.


The not-so-sacred secret of a California priest stealing thousands of dollars from his parishes was revealed when he was involved in a car accident, and police found him with six security bags filled with nearly $20,000 in donations.

Father Oscar Diaz of the community of Resurrection in Santa Rosa had a car accident on June 19 in which he suffered a hip injury. When the police came to his rescue, they discovered a staggering $18,305 in stolen parish collections in his car.

But that was only the tip of the iceberg.

Another investigation revealed that he had a huge supply of $77,000 in cash, allegedly taken from the various communities where he served, according to CBS.

Asked about the amount, Diaz claimed it was his salary.

Diaz served as a priest for the past 25 years and had connections to at least seven churches in California, including Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, Clearlake; Queen of the Rosary Mission, Lucerne; Saint Mary Immaculate Parish, Lakeport; Saint Peter Mission, Kelseyville; Saint Mary of the Angels Parish, Ukiah; Saint Elizabeth Seton Mission; and Philo and Saint Francis Mission, Hopland.

In a press release, the diocese said that the amount Diaz had stolen was over $95,000.

However, it is not clear whether he will be confronted with a criminal charge.

This money was linked to the resurrection congregation in Santa Rosa, where Father Oscar was a pastor,” Bishop Robert F. Vasa said in a diocesan press release. After an initial investigation and several interviews, the police found that the collection accounting logs would make it difficult to provide sufficient evidence of theft for prosecution,” he added.

There is also evidence that money was stolen in various ways in each of the parishes where he served as a pastor.

I am deeply saddened that this happened, and I am deeply saddened that the parishes to whose ministry he was sent were hurt. The full extent of the theft is not known and may never be fully known, but the diocese is obliged to determine as fully as possible the extent of the theft from each of these parishes.

It is now absolutely clear that he has systematically stolen from parishes and parishioners for at least 15 years, including an indefinite number of checks made out to parishes and transferred to Father Oscar’s personal account,” said Bishop Vasa.

The diocese says that Diaz admitted that he “took the collection bags and has been doing so for some time”.

Although no charges were filed, the diocese announced that it would replace the stolen money.  As for Father Oscar, he was suspended from his priestly duties.

Father Oscar is currently suspended from the priesthood. There are currently no plans for ministry in the community and his future is uncertain,” the runner said.

In the car accident, Father Oscar suffered a hip fracture that required surgery and is currently recovering from that surgery.

For the Santa Rosa community, his scandal has shocked and betrayed parishioners.

I have known Father Oscar Diaz for a little over 20 years. It is shocking. You know, it’s really sad,” said Mayor Favian Iniguez. I mean, I’m sad just because I heard how things ended up in the situation he’s in right now. He wanted to marry us next month. August 31st. So we are still planning to get married, now we are looking for another priest.

The diocese continues its internal investigation of Diaz.


About Author

Mette Frederiksen is a The Washington Newsday correspondent. With her coverage of general science, NASA and the interface between technology and society, Frederiksen has been in the Science Desk's Technology Beat since joining Washington Newsday in 2018.

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