Utah’s Catholic bishop ‘deeply distressed’ by priest abuse and cover-up, vows to review policies to ‘prevent these sins’ from happening again

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Bishop Oscar A. Solis welcomes worshippers at the Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord Mass at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, Sunday, April 16, 2017.

Utah Catholic Bishop Oscar A. Solis was beyond appalled by the sweeping report of massive child sex abuse committed by priests in Pennsylvania.

The country’s first Filipino Catholic bishop issued a strongly worded statement Wednesday, saying he was “stunned, enraged and scandalized by the past and recent revelations of these misdeeds and the mishandling of allegations of abuse by some of our church authorities.”

Solis, who oversees 300,000-plus Catholics in Utah, expressed his “personal shame, distress and anger“ about the “sexual abuse committed by some of our priests, bishops and church leaders against our children, young people and adults whom we are supposed to serve and to protect.”

Beyond the horror experienced by the victims, Solis said, it was “deeply distressing that some leaders have mishandled allegations of abuse, covered up such sinful acts and were not held accountable.”

He asked for forgiveness “for the wrongdoings of my brother priests, bishops and other church ministers and for failing in our responsibility to be the true shepherds Christ called us to be.”

In 2004, then-Utah Bishop George H. Niederauer said in a statement that, from 1950 until 2002, there were 18 credible allegations of sexual abuse against 13 priests in the Diocese of Salt Lake City.

That represented 2.7 percent of the 476 priests who served the diocese during those years, said Niederauer, who died last year.

Fifteen of the 18 reported offenses occurred between 1963 and 1984, with three happening in the 20 years since then. None of those 13 priests was active in ministry in Utah, he said, or elsewhere in this country.

The diocese has made “no settlements related to clergy sexual abuse," Niederauer said at the time. "Funds for legal fees have not been taken from parish collections of the diocesan development drive."

There was a lawsuit against Utah’s diocese, accusing the Rev. James Rapp of sexual abuse in the 1970s. It was dismissed because, at that time, the statute of limitations had expired.

For his part, Solis urged Catholics to pray for victims and survivors of sexual abuse “that they may come forward to receive the help, support and healing they need.”

He also asked for prayers “for the abusers and perpetrators of these crimes that bring tremendous pain and suffering to victims,” and finally to the “families of both victims and perpetrators, as well as for our church leaders, so they can carry out a more vigorous and renewed commitment to safeguarding and protecting everyone under our care.”

The Utah bishop pledged that the Diocese of Salt Lake City would “take action to the best of our ability to review our policies and programs, hoping and praying that we can prevent these sins from happening again.”