Prompted by the recent scandal surrounding sexual abuse by Catholic priests across Pennsylvania, the bishop of the Salt Lake City diocese is publicly disclosing Utah’s own history of “credible allegations” going back nearly 60 years.
The diocese has received reports from roughly 34 victims since 1990, Bishop Oscar Solis said in a letter Thursday in the diocese’s weekly newspaper. The incidents, which occurred from 1960 to as recently as this year, reportedly involved 16 priests as well as two other church officials abusing minors.
“All allegations were reported to the Division of Child and Family Services and all victims were offered pastoral assistance with counselling and therapy,” Solis wrote.
According to Solis, most of the allegations came to the diocese after the accused priest had left, retired or died.
Solis’ account is probably the first time Catholics in Utah are getting this level of accounting of sexual abuse allegations involving priests, diocese spokeswoman Jean Hill said.
The most recent allegation involves the pastor at St. Peter Parish in American Fork the Rev. David R. Gaeta. Gaeta was placed on leave last month after he was accused of sexual misconduct with at least two minors, the Salt Lake Tribune reported . He has denied any wrongdoing, Hill said.
Before that, a priest in Orem was accused of misconduct involving another man. The alleged misconduct occurred in December 2016 but was reported to police in July. The priest took leave that day.
The Catholic Church has come under fire recently for a host of scandals. A Pennsylvania grand jury report alleged that more than 1,000 children were sexually abused by about 300 clergy in six dioceses in that state, and that a “systematic” coverup effort by church leaders took place over a span of 70 years.
Solis expressed hope that his disclosures will show the diocese’s commitment to providing a safe environment for young people.
“Some of our priests and bishops have committed harm and injustice to so many,” Solis wrote. “On behalf of all my brother priests, and myself, I beg your forgiveness for their sins and failings.”