Amarillo Diocese Says Hiring Convicted Child Molester "a Serious Mistake"
By Jim McBride
December 31, 2013
|AP FileThis June 30, 2003 file photo shows John Anthony Salazar, a former priest accused of sexually assaulting two boys in Los Angeles in the 1980s, appearing with his attorney, Daniel Guerrero, right, in Superior Court in Los Angeles for his arraignment. When Salazar arrived in Tulia, Texas, in 1991, he was warmly welcomed by the Roman Catholic community tucked in the Texas Panhandle. What his new parishioners didn't know was he'd been hired out of a treatment program for pedophile priests land that he'd been convicted for child molestation and banned from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for life.|
A former Tulia priest has been sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to molesting a young male parishioner who attended the Church of the Holy Spirit.
John Salazar, 58, pleaded guilty Monday in a Tulia court to a second-degree felony charge of indecency with a child — sexual contact.
Judge Robert W. Kincaid ordered him to pay a $1,500 fine and $734 in court costs, court records show.
The case stemmed from an incident that occurred Dec. 23, 2001.
In Los Angeles, Salazar pleaded guilty in 1987 to one count of oral copulation and one count of lewd or lascivious acts with a child for molesting two altar boys, then ages 13 and 14.
Salazar, who was required to register as a sex offender and was banned from serving as a priest in the Diocese of Los Angeles, served three years of a six-year prison term before being sent in 1990 to a New Mexico treatment program for pedophile priests.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Amarillo hired Salazar in 1991 and assigned him — while he was still on parole — to the Church of the Holy Spirit in Tulia.
Diocesan officials said later they had received no complaints during his service with the tiny parish.
In a letter to a Los Angeles cardinal in 1992, former Amarillo Bishop Leroy Matthiesen defended his decision to hire priests with backgrounds of sexual abuse.
He died in 2010, but in his autobiography he said the priests he hired “repented, paid the price, were rehabilitated, stayed within the boundaries laid out for them.”
The Diocese of Amarillo has since issued a statement by Bishop Patrick Zurek on Salazar’s hiring that said “a serious mistake” was made when diocesan officials brought Salazar to Tulia.
The Diocese of Amarillo faced its share of sex abuse scandals in the early 2000s and paid out $1.2 million in insured funds and $47,500 in diocesan funds to settle allegations involving sexual abuse of minors.
A statement issued Tuesday by Barbara Dorris — outreach director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a support group for clergy victims founded in 1988 — urged any other possible victims to come forward.
“Bishop Leroy Matthiesen brought Salazar to Amarillo and placed him in unsuspecting parishes over the objections of church officials in Los Angeles. Church officials in LA had never defrocked Salazar,” Dorris wrote.
“Salazar has been brought to justice because of brave victims who had the wisdom and the courage to work with civil authorities, not church officials. We beg anyone who has been harmed by this predator to come forward and begin healing. We hope that anyone who has seen or suspected misdeeds by Salazar will contact law enforcement.”