Tennessee Catholic priest shares he was a target of sexual advances as a seminarian, SNAP commends him for speaking up
Fr. Brent Shelton has admitted that he was targeted as a seminarian by Fr.Jose Saldana. Fr. Saldana, who was acknowledged as an abuser by the Catholic Diocese of Dallas in 2019, was reportedly removed from active ministry in 1998. The now deceased perpetrator had multiple allegations of sexually abusing other teens.
We know that it can take victims decades to come forward, and that delayed disclosure is the norm, not the exception. It is also quite common for a survivor to gather the courage to speak up once an abuser is outed. So we are not surprised that while Fr. Shelton "thought about that hotel incident every single day since it happened over 30 years ago," he did not approach the Dallas Bishop until the Diocesan list of abusers was published in 2019.
Susan Vance sums it up well, "As a Tennessee SNAP leader, I am inspired by Father Shelton for speaking out about his abuse as a teen and then his sexual exploitation as an adult seminarian. His courage will help many people."
However, we respectfully but vehemently disagree with Fr. Shelton when he appears to excuse the actions of Catholic bishops by saying that they are "on the whole, delicate men, very sensitive to what people think of them," and people "must learn how to work with them as they are." SNAP believes that bishops must be urged to tell the truth about accused clergy to parishioners and the public, alert law enforcement of any and all allegations, cooperate with any investigations into criminal behavior, and hold those responsible for crimes accountable. Catholic officials have ignored victims for far too long, and their suffering is far, far worse than any bruise to a prelate's sensitive ego.
We empathize with Fr. Shelton for his experience as a young man. We have heard many similar stories of grooming, sexual abuse, and physical threats by other seminarians who were the targets of superiors or classmates. The case of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick is a stark example. Sadly, the culture that subjects aspiring priests to abuse is a reality and still needs to be aggressively addressed.
CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager (267-261-0578, [email protected]), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (517-974-9009, [email protected]) Susan Vance, SNAP Leader Tennessee, (865-748-3518, [email protected])