The Diocese of Stockton sent out an alert over the weekend to other churches to be on the lookout for people “purporting to be Spanish-speaking Catholic bishops and priests” who charge “exorbitant fees for celebrating the sacraments, teaching classes, and issuing certificates.”
“These imposters are misappropriating the identities of genuine priests in Mexico and conducting unauthorized celebrations of baptism, confirmation, First Communion, and house blessings under false pretenses,” the diocese said in a news release.
Diocesan spokesperson Erin Haight told NBC News the bogus clerics “are charging these poor people thousands and thousands of dollars for things like health blessings for communions and confirmations.
They’re even charging people to use the seats they provide at these ceremonies,” Haight said. “The Catholic Church would never do that.”
The conmen are reportedly charging $600 per home visit plus $70 for each child they bless.
“They require a birth certificate from people who are performing their sacraments, so it can be used for human trafficking or identity theft,” Arvizu added.
The Diocese of Stockton notes that “with few exceptions, Catholic sacraments are typically administered within Catholic churches. Celebrations of baptism, confirmation, and First Communion in outdoor locations like parks are not aligned with established Catholic practices.”