Diocesan News

Diocese Takes Action to Permanently Remove Deacon From Ministry After Guilty Plea

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WOODSIDE — The Diocese of Brooklyn has begun the process of permanently removing a former St. Sebastian Church deacon from all ministry following his guilty plea to coercing teenagers into sexual acts.

Rogelio Vega, 52, of Maspeth, Queens, pleaded guilty in federal court on Friday, Sept. 16, to three counts of enticing a child to engage in sexual conduct. He now faces the possibility of a maximum sentence of life behind bars. The minimum sentence is 10 years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 20.

Rogelio Vega

Following the guilty plea, the diocese released a statement.

“Immediately upon the arrest of Rogelio Vega in January 2021, the Diocese of Brooklyn removed him from ministry, which prohibited him from ministering as a deacon and performing liturgical duties,” the statement read. “Following Friday’s admission of guilt in federal court, the Diocese of Brooklyn has reaffirmed that Mr. Vega is not recognized as a deacon, and the process has begun to have him permanently removed from ministry.”

Vega served as a deacon at Saint Sebastian Church in Woodside from 2015 until his arrest in January 2021. 

According to documents filed in federal court, between approximately 2015 and January 2021, Vega used phone messaging apps to solicit sex with minors between the ages of 14 and 16.

“The defendant’s use of the internet, including apps targeted to children, to sexually exploit minors is reprehensible,” said Breon Peace, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. 

NYPD Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell called Vega’s actions “calculated, despicable wrongs” and said he will pay a steep price. 

The statement released from the diocese added, “We pray for the three victims in this case. May this resolution be a first step toward healing.”

Vega was originally arrested on Jan. 22, 2021, for exchanging pornographic pictures with a minor he believed to be 14 years old and then made arrangements to meet in person. What Vega didn’t know was that the person he was communicating with was an undercover agent. When he showed up to meet the “teen,” the agent arrested him.

Vega pleaded guilty in that case in October. That same day of his guilty plea, he was arrested on federal charges after a search of his cell phone turned up evidence that he had enticed three minors for sex, authorities said.

Upon Vega’s removal from St. Sebastian in 2021, the diocese sent a letter to parishioners to inform them of the arrest and actions taken against him. The diocese also sent its vice chancellor and head of the Office of Victim Assistance to St. Sebastian to meet with parishioners.  

The steps are part of the diocese’s commitment and protocols put in place nearly two decades ago to combat sexual abuse, including a zero-tolerance policy. 

In 2004, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio  — who retired in 2021 — established a reporting line (888-634-4499) for anyone to report allegations of sexual abuse within the diocese. The confidential line connects directly to law enforcement authorities. Victims are encouraged to report a crime no matter when the alleged abuse occurred.

The Office of Victim Assistance also provides supportive services to victims, including counseling and referrals for therapy. In addition, the diocese runs the Office of Safe Environment, which trains clergy, employees, and students on identifying the signs of sexual abuse and how to report it.