GRANGER, Wash - The Diocese of Yakima has released a statement saying Rev. Gustavo Gómez Santos, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Granger, has been permanently removed from all public ministry in the Roman Catholic Church after an allegation of sexual of abuse of a minor was determined to be credible.
We are told that Gómez Santos, 51, was placed on leave May 5 after Yakima County Sheriff’s Office detectives shared with the Diocese an interview with a 21-year-old former Mattawa resident who reported he had been fondled by the priest five or six years earlier, while the priest was serving as pastor of St. Juan Diego Parish in Cowiche. Sheriff’s officials determined the incident could not be prosecuted due to the statute of limitations, prompting an investigation by the Diocese.
The Diocese states that during the investigation the priest has continued to deny the abuse, but they say his credibility was undermined by admissions that he had violated the diocese’s Code of Conduct, including admissions that he allowed minors to stay overnight alone in his residence in several parishes, served alcohol to minors, gave and received massages to and from minors, and gave minors expensive gifts, including trips to Disneyland.
It's stated that the victim’s credibility was bolstered by reports from a former close friend who said the young man had told him of the abuse when both were teens, and with reports from other men who said they had been the recipients of gifts, massages, and other inappropriate attention from the priest when they were teens. One man reported that the priest made the behavior “seem normal,” and that within their Hispanic culture, “we were taught to never question the priest.”
Bishop Tyson says the diocese would redouble its efforts to educate parishioners and priests on the reality of sexual abuse in the church and society, and how to combat it.
Announcements will be made in parishes throughout the diocese in the coming weeks to encourage reporting of abuse, particularly in parishes served by Gómez Santos. The priest will continue to live in a supervised setting. He voluntarily surrendered his passports to diocesan authorities when he was first put on leave and has cooperated with the diocese’s investigation. The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will review the case. The Congregation could confirm the bishop’s decision of a permanent removal from ministry, or send the case back to Yakima for further proceedings, such as a church trial. The priest, who is from Guadalajara, Mexico, was ordained in Yakima June 28, 2002.
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