PUBLIC SAFETY FACILITY — A priest at Saint Anne’s Catholic Church and Shrine has been put on leave as police investigate allegations of sexual battery against a female adult.
The victim came forward on July 1 alleging that Rafael Venegas, the administrator at Saint Anne’s, had committed an act of sexual battery against her in September 2011 while on church property.
She is not a parishioner at the church.
The California Penal Code defines sexual battery as the act of touching an “intimate” part of another person for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification or abuse while the victim is restrained.
In a statement read during mass on Saturday and Sunday, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles stated that it considers the allegations to “be credible.”
“Father Venegas has been removed from ministry and will be living privately pending the outcome of the matter,” the statement reads. “A law enforcement investigation is pending and the Archdiocese is cooperating in that investigation.”
Venegas’ attorney declined to comment for this article.
Anyone with additional information is asked to contact Detective DeRyck at (310) 458-8944, Sgt. Jacob at (310)458-8460 or the Santa Monica Police Department at (310) 458-8495.
Those who wish to remain anonymous can call WeTip at 1-800-78-CRIME (1-800-78-27463) or submit the tip online at www.wetip.com. You will remain completely anonymous, and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000 if your information leads to an arrest and conviction, according to the release.
Tipsters may also call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS (8477) or by visiting their website at www.lacrimestoppers.org.