SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Concerned parents of students at J.E. Cosgriff school have started a petition asking the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City to reconsider assigning Rev. Erik Richtsteig to their parish and school all because of controversial social media posts.
The parents told ABC4 News they believe the posts by Father Richtsteig to be misogynistic and homophobic. In several screenshots sent to ABC4 News, Father Richtsteig is shown touting an assault rifle.
Monday, 200 people had signed the petition, asking Bishop Oscar A. Solis to reconsider Richtsteig’s placement at St. Ambrose Parish, whose previous priest pleaded no contest last year to soliciting a prostitute.
Parents said they love St. Ambrose and J.E. Cosgriff school, but don’t want Richtsteig’s ideas about LGBTQ individuals, women and assault rifles being taught to their children.
“It’s disturbing and it’s hard to imagine sending our children to someone like this for spiritual leadership,” said a parent who has three children at Cosgriff.
Father Richtsteig, who came highly recommended from St. James Parish in Ogden and St. Joseph Elementary School, was unavailable for comment Monday, and the person who answered the phone at St. Ambrose told ABC4 News he was out of town. He also did not respond to a personal request for comment.
Bishop Oscar Solis has tried to reassure parishioners. Below is part of a letter sent to attendees of St. Ambrose:
“To the best of my knowledge, his misjudgments were never reflected in his homilies, interactions with students at our two Ogden Catholic Schools or in his dealing with parishioners in those twenty-five years of his priestly life and ministry…All I ask of you is to please first meet with him, get to know him, work with him and present your hopes and expectations in order to make him accountable and a better priest for you, your children and parishioners.”Bishop Oscar Solis in a letter to St. Ambrose parishioners
In the letter, Solis indicates Richtsteig was counseled over his social media posts. One of his former colleagues called him “opinionated,” but highly recommended Richtsteig as a priest and spiritual leader.
Another parent, who asked to remain anonymous, said he was very concerned about what he called hateful rhetoric from Fr. Richtsteig online.
“How do you have a priest getting up in front of your kids and trying to teach values and morals when he has all this hateful rhetoric all over his online persona that many of our kids can look at?” the parent asked.
Another parent told ABC4 News her children will no longer be attending Cosgriff over the situation.
Other than sharing Bishop Solis’s letters to parishioners, the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City had no comment on this story.