Diocese removes Granger pastor

Priest accused of sexual abuse of a minor

photo

Rev. Gustavo Gomez Santos

Gomez Santos served other parishes

Gustavo Gomez Santos previously served in several other parishes, including:

Blessed Sacrament Parish, Grandview

Immaculate Conception Parish, Mabton

Holy Apostles Parish, East Wenatchee

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, Benton City

Our Lady of the Desert, Mattawa

St. Juan Diego Parish, Cowiche

— A local parish priest has been removed due to allegations of sexual abuse.

The Rev. Gustavo Gomez Santos, 51, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, has been removed from public ministry in the Roman Catholic Church, Yakima Diocese Bishop Joseph Tyson said yesterday.

Gomez Santos also conducted Spanish-language mass in Mabton, Tyson said.

The action was taken because the allegation of sexual abuse of a minor “… was determined to be credible,” Tyson said.

The parish office directed questions to the Diocese, where Monsignor Robert M. Siler announced Gomez Santos’ removal during masses last week.

“People were pretty subdued, a lot of sadness,” Siler said. “A lot of folks just don’t believe this and wonder if the diocese has done a thorough evaluation.

“There was sadness, anger and denial.”

Gomez Santos was placed on leave May 5 after Yakima County Sheriff’s Office detectives shared 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, Tyson said.

“We did share this case information with the Diocese investigators early on to ensure that what could be done, was being done,” Detective Sgt. Mike Russell said.

Sheriff’s officials determined the incident could not be prosecuted due to the statute of limitations, prompting the Diocese investigation, he said.

Siler will serve as a temporary administrator for the parish.

There have been a series of visiting priests on weekends since Gomez-Santos’ removal, Siler said.

Father Tomas Vidal, associate priest in Grandview, will be assigned parochial vicar full-time to Granger and Mabton starting July 1, Siler said.

While Gomez Santos has continued to deny the abuse, his credibility was undermined by alleged admissions he had violated the Diocese’s Code of Conduct, Siler said. Those alleged admissions include 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, Siler said.

“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,” Siler said.

“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’.”

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will review the case, he said.

“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,” he said.



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