Brownsville parishioners react to arrest of former priest

By: Sarah Cervera

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Parishioners at St. Luke's Catholic Church in Brownsville say they have mixed feelings following the arrest of their former priest.

Fernando Gonzalez Ortega was arrested on Monday on charges of child sex abuse and trafficking.

Some parishioners said they will support Ortega.

“That's between him and God, but whatever it is, we have to stand behind him,” a parishioner identified as “Carmen” said.

READ MORE: Brownsville priest arraigned on trafficking and child sex abuse charges

Other parishioners say they believe more accountability is needed in the church

“It’s bad, and these things shouldn’t be happening,” Juana Polanco said.

Though he’s not connected to the case, attorney Ed Stapelton specializes in sex crimes. He said the penalty for one of the charges Ortega faces — continuous sexual abuse of a child — could mean life in prison.

Stapelton says the same goes for the charge of continuous trafficking of people.

"It's like slavery for the purposes of prostitution,” Stapelton said, adding that the process to convict or exonerate Ortega of the five charges against him could take years.

According to a statement by the Catholic Dioceses of Brownsville, Ortega's accuser is now an adult. 

The diocese added that they were made aware of the allegations against Ortega on Friday, Feb. 2, and Ortega was removed from ministry duties the following day.

The Catholic Dioceses of Brownsville released a list of clergy members with credible allegations of sexual abuse of a child against them. The list can be found on their website.

Watch the video above for the full story. 


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