When emergency workers responded to the accident in a California town last month, they saw bags of cash containing $18,305.86 allegedly stolen from the church in Father Oscar Diaz’s car. Subsequent investigation into the theft, revealed that Fr. Diaz had in his office and home, collection bags from Resurrection Parish totaling more than $95,000.
“There is also evidence that money was stolen in a variety of ways from each of the parishes where he had served as pastor. I am deeply grieved that this has happened and am deeply saddened that the parishes he was sent to serve have been harmed,” Bishop Robert F. Vasa wrote in his July 22 press release.
“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. Once such determinations are made it is the goal of the Diocese to make restitution to the parishes.”
The Catholic Priest has now been suspended from the Diocese of Santa Rosa as announced on July 22, and he has been the subject of a police investigation.
Fr. Diaz had been a priest for 25 years, and it was gathered that he told the emergency responders at the time of the crash that the bags of cash were his salary. A further probe revealed that Diaz had also deposited a number of checks made out to parishes into his personal bank account. He has also admitted to stealing the church collection bags for some time.
“There is also evidence that money was stolen in a variety of ways from each of the Parishes where he had served as pastor,” he added, saying he was “deeply grieved” and “saddened” by the “prolonged history of theft.”
“Father Oscar admitted that he had taken the Collection bags and had been doing so for some time,” the bishop said in another letter, saying Diaz had read and approved the church’s statements about the thefts.
“I expressed to him my deep sadness, anger and dismay,” the bishop wrote, insisting he was “determined” to prosecute.
But police are reluctant to pursue the case, the diocese claims.
“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 told parishioners.
Vasa added that the diocese was not planning to pursue criminal prosecution at this time, because of the cost involved.