Dinuba priest Father Raul Diaz faces accusations of inappropriate behavior with children

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A small, tight-knit community is reeling after news in Dinuba broke of a police investigation centered around Roman Catholic priest Father Raul Diaz.

The longtime pastor at Saint Catherine's Catholic Church is on leave after being accused of inappropriate behavior.

The Diocese of Fresno released a statement from Bishop Joseph Brennan regarding Father Raul:

"It is my responsibility as your Bishop to inform you that I have placed Father Raul Diaz, Pastor of St. Catherine Siena, on "Paid Administrative Leave" effective as of May 17, 2019. This action follows notification that law enforcement has received a report alleging Father Diaz has engaged in inappropriate behavior that may include inappropriate contact with minors.

Back in high school, Father Raul was a member of McFarland's famed cross-country team -- later featured in the 2015 Disney film McFarland USA. Diaz graduated in 1987 but was not depicted in the movie.

According to Dinuba Police, detectives received a report last week alleging Father Raul engaged in inappropriate contact with minors.

Parishioners we spoke to were shocked upon hearing the news.

"I like the way he preaches. I like the way he greets the congregation, which is pretty good," said Ricardo Cruz.

Cruz says Father Raul has been a pillar of the community. He even assisted Cruz during the process to become naturalized almost 10 years ago.

"When I was trying to apply for my DACA...back then I needed a recommendation letter and it was the church that helped me out," he said. "With that recommendation letter and actually his signature by helping the community. I can say that by fact."

The Diocese of Fresno wants to make this clear that the action taken against Father Raul is only a precautionary measure -- pending the outcome of the investigation.

But the timing could not be worse, as the Diocese is also dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct by a Bakersfield Monsignor.
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