SALT LAKE CITY (News4Utah) – In a letter from the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City published Thursday, officials said the Diocese received “credible allegations of sexual abuse against 16 priests” since 1990. Those reports – detailing incidents which date back to between 1962 and 1994 – all involved minors, the Diocese said.
Two new allegations against priests within the Diocese surfaced this year, including a new allegation made public Thursday against Father Jorge Martinez-Gomez.
In a letter entitled “Report to the People of God of the Diocese of Salt Lake City,” Bishop Oscar A. Solis gave details about the allegations, and said approximately 34 victims were involved.
One religious brother and one seminarian were also implicated, Solis said in the letter.
16 of the 18 alleged abuse incidents involving minors happened between 1962 and 1994. Two of those reports were said to have been received in 2002 and 2003 after the introduction of the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” which was established in 2002.
In 1990, however, Bishop William K. Weigand of the Diocese of Salt Lake City made a Diocese-wide rule that allegations of sexual abuse of minors would be addressed and reported to proper authorities, Solis said.
Victims who reported the four alleged incidents that occurred between 1951 and 1975 were offered money to get therapy, Solis said. Those reports, received between 2005 and 2010, involved victims who did not recall the identity of the priest or lay minister who had abused them, Solis told parishioners.
“Most allegations were reported to and received by the diocese after the priest either had left the priesthood, had retired, returned to their country of origin or had died,” said Solis.
The Diocese reported all the claims to the Division of Child and Family Services and reaffirmed a commitment to uphold the 2002 Charter, which requires the Diocese provide abuse prevention and reporting programs, perform background checks for anyone who works with children, and offer resources for adults and children.
Solis said any time the Church receives a claim of abuse, the accused person is “placed under temporary suspension” from their duties as a priest until an investigation is completed.
Solis said the Diocese will continue to enact a “Zero Tolerance policy,” not allowing anyone who is found guilty of abuse to return to service in the ministry.
“I encourage all parishes and Utah Catholic Schools to devote a time for prayer, healing and reconciliation,” Solis said. “Let us gather our parish community every First Friday of the month from September to December of this year … to gather for a prayer service … and remember in our intentions all victim-survivors, their families and our Church,” he continued.
The letter comes just a month after a Catholic priest was placed on administrative leave, after being accused of touching children inappropriately.
Father David Gaeta had served in 10 different parishes, including St. Joseph in Ogden, where he was assigned from 1980 to 1984. The alleged incidents occurred during that time, Diocese officials said.
Thursday, the Diocese released information that Father Jorge Martinez-Gomez was accused of misconduct that involved another adult male.
The pulpit announcement, made in July at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Orem, read:
“We regret to inform you that the Diocese of Salt Lake City received an allegation of misconduct against Father Jorge Martinez which involved an adult male. The alleged misconduct occurred in December, 2016. The Diocese was made aware of the allegations on July 3, 2018. Father Martinez is the Parochial Vicar here, at Saint Francis of Assisi Catholic Church. He has been placed on administrative leave effective Tuesday, July 3, 2018, pending the outcome of the investigation by the Diocese. This matter has been reported to law enforcement, and we will cooperate with law enforcement in its investigation. The Diocese is unaware of any other allegations against Father Martinez. If you have any information or concerns, please call Sandy Growe, Victims Assistance Coordinator, at 801-328-8641. Please continue to pray for all those impacted by this matter.”