Catholic Priest Once Investigated by Pasadena Police Granted Early Retirement by Pope Francis

Published : Thursday, December 20, 2018 | 6:55 AM

Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Alexander Salazar seen in a file photo

[Updated]  A Catholic priest who was investigated in 2002 by the Pasadena Police Department for sexual misconduct with a child was granted early retirement by Pope Francis on Wednesday.

Church officials acknowledged that 69-year-old Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Alexander Salazar resigned “for the good of the church.”

Salazar had been associate pastor of a Pasadena church and parish school at the time of the investigation. Police referred the case to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office for prosecution but the District Attorney did not file charges, citing insufficient evidence, police said.

The Vatican had never listed the allegation on any lists of accused priests it provided for public transparency. The inquiry involving Salazar was only acknowledged by the church when Salazar resigned.

The current archbishop of Los Angeles, the Most Rev. Jose Gomez, told the Associated Press that the archdiocese learned of the Pasadena claim in 2005 and forwarded the allegation to the Vatican office handling sex abuse cases.

An investigation by the archdiocese’s independent review board found the allegation to be credible, Gomez told the AP.

Church officials said that certain “precautionary measures” were thereafter imposed upon Salazar and that no other complaints against him were ever received during his 34-year priesthood.

Salazar has consistently denied any misconduct or wrongdoing.

Wednesday’s announcement from Rome comes two weeks after the Archdiocese of Los Angeles released an updated comprehensive list of sexual misconduct allegations involving priests.

Born in Costa Rica in 1949, Salazar grew up in Los Angeles after his family moved to the U.S. when he was three years old. He studied at local Catholic schools and later taught high school for 10 years, then studied for the priesthood at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo.

After being ordained priest in 1984, Salazar served in several Los Angeles-area parishes and was ordained bishop in 2004. Throughout his religious career, he has been known as an advocate for the poor and immigrants.

In 2002, the Pasadena Police Department investigated Salazar after an adult male came forward to accuse the priest of sexual misconduct when the accuser was a minor in the 1990s. At the time, Salazar was serving as associate pastor at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Pasadena.

The Los Angeles Archdiocese was not notified of the investigation by either Pasadena Police or the District Attorney, the Angelus News report said. The Archdiocese said it learned of the allegations and investigation three years later, in 2005, through a third party, after which then-Archbishop Cardinal Roger M. Mahony requested a full review of the case.

The Los Angeles Times report said the Pasadena Police Department indicated at least some in the church might have known sooner. The Times’ report said the Department issued a statement Wednesday saying the incident involving Salazar occurred at a private residence, and officials made contact with the church and the school.

Because the allegation concerned a bishop, Mahony also immediately took the matter to the Holy See’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, which conducted its own probe and imposed “certain precautionary measures on the ministry of Bishop Salazar” as a result.

This fall, as the Archdiocese prepared to update its “Report to the People of God,” which lists the names of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse or misconduct, current archbishop of Los Angeles Jose Gomez reportedly felt it was important to revisit the old allegation against Salazar.

In a December 19 letter to Catholic Church members in Los Angeles, Gomez explained that he asked for and received permission from the Holy See’s Congregation for Bishops to submit the Salazar allegation to the archdiocese’s independent Clergy Misconduct Oversight Board.

The board reviewed the allegation under the same standards applied to priests and deacons, and found it credible, recommending that Salazar have “no faculties to minister.”

Gomez submitted the board’s findings and recommendations to the bishops’ congregation in Rome.

The Times report said Salazar was pastor at the Pasadena church from 1988 to 1992. The family of the minor victim didn’t go to police until 2002, during the height of the priest abuse scandal.

blog comments powered by Disqus