"The total cash is in excess of $95,000," wrote Bishop Robert Vasa of the Santa Rosa Diocese.
The church and police began to suspect an issue after Father Diaz suffered a hip injury in an automobile accident on June 19. Officers found bags of cash totaling $18,305 in the car, which Father Diaz described as his salary.
Investigations proved otherwise.
"My goal is some semblance of justice, reparation, and at least spiritual restitution," said Vasa. "Criminal prosecution is not incompatible with the Gospel, but our goal must be both mercy and justice. It is now absolutely clear from solid evidence that he has been systematically stealing from parishes and parishioners for at least the past 15 years, included an indeterminable number of checks made out to parishes and deposited to Father Oscar's personal account. I will not mention all of the details since there is no justifiable reason for me to do so."
When asked if she trusts him, parish member Lynn Angeles said, "I just know he is a good man and my thought is, like a lot of us, we're not perfect."
While the church took the case to the Santa Rosa police, there does not appear to be enough evidence to prosecute.
After learning that, fellow parish member Reynaldo Carrasco said, "It's hard to explain when you hear that, you know? For me, the money doesn't matter. It's the relationship with the people and trust that could be broken."
The bishop has removed Father Oscar from Resurrection Parish and any other duties.
Those parishes in question include:
- 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
- Philo and Saint Francis Mission, Hopland