Six new allegations levied against five former priests in the Diocese of Sacramento, two have criminal warrants and have fled the country; SNAP responds
The Catholic Diocese of Sacramento recently updated their list of "credibly accused" clergy by adding six new allegations against five former priests, Gerardo Beltran Rico, William Feeser, Francisco Javier Garcia, William Hold, and Uriel Ojeda. While all five men were already included on the Diocesan list, the new allegations were received through the Independent Compensation Program, which concluded its work this past summer.
While Sacramento does a very good job of providing information about their accused clerics compared to other Catholic Dioceses, we wonder if it could do more to locate both Rico and Garcia, who have criminal warrants for their arrest in the state of California and are believed to be in Mexico. If the Diocese is as sincere about seeking atonement for the horrible sins committed, perhaps they could post a substantial reward for the capture of these two wanted and dangerous men, and advertise this in both countries.
Bishop James Soto stated in the announcement that “This independent program did what we prayed it would do. First and foremost, it created avenues where victims of clergy abuse could come forward and seek justice and healing for the pain that was inflicted on them by men who betrayed their trust. Second, it provided information that we are using to ensure that our reckoning of the past is as thorough and transparent as it needs to be if we are to seek God’s mercy.”
Yet, we cannot help but note that applications to the compensation program closed shortly after California opened a "window to justice" on January 1, 2020. The civil window allows survivors of child sexual abuse to hold their abusers and those institutions that enabled that abuse accountable. This window will remain open through the end of 2022. While we support a victim’s decision to voluntarily participate in this Church compensation program, we find it hard to take seriously Bishop Soto's suggestion that the Diocese initiated the compensation program to find predatory priests. In our experience, these programs are designed to eliminate potential litigants to both save the Church money and to keep information about who in the Diocese knew what and when they knew it hidden from parishioners and the public.
We urge anyone who was abused as a child in the Diocese of Sacramento to report to law enforcement immediately. If you need help coming forward, reach out to family, friends, and groups like ours for support.