Hume's Road to Ordination: Booted by Three Seminaries

By Bleys W. Rose
Press Democrat
September 19, 1999

As a scandal of sex and money has unfolded in the Santa Rosa Catholic Diocese, a former Ukiah priest whose lawsuit set the upheaval in motion has been a mysterious but central figure.

Jorge Hume Salas, whose accusations of a forced sexual relationship brought about the downfall of Bishop G. Patrick Ziemann, applied for a position in the diocese just days after Ziemann took the post of bishop. He was rapidly made a priest and began serving Ukiah's Spanish-speaking Catholics.

But little was known about his past and how he was recruited to the diocese and then Ukiah, even by the clergy entrusted with his tutelage. As the investigation following his lawsuit against Ziemann has developed, details about Hume's background, his connection to Santa Rosa and his troubled clerical history have come to light in letters and other documents obtained by The Press Democrat.

Before seeking a new start in the Santa Rosa Diocese, Hume had been expelled from seminaries in Honduras, Bolivia and New Jersey for infractions that included posing as a priest, administering sacraments for which he was not ordained, falsifying his resumes and possessing pornography.

Hume did not include any of his previous troubles with the Catholic Church in his 1992 application for priesthood in the Santa Rosa Diocese, and he received a warm recommendation from the diocesan priest charged with developing the church's relations with the North Coast's heavily Catholic, Spanish-speaking community. Ziemann has said through his attorney that he did not learn of Hume's previous problems until months after the priest's ordination in 1993.

Irma Cordova, Hume's Santa Rosa attorney, said Hume's background reflects only a lifelong passion to become a priest. "He's not an angel. None of us are. But he is a victim in this case," Cordova said.

Born Sept. 26, 1957, into a poor family in the town of Tucurrique in the province of Cartago in Costa Rica, Hume was the oldest of the six children of Maria Elena Salas and Jorge Hume Smith, a tractor driver.

He went to elementary and secondary schools in the area from 1970 to 1979, but his studies in the later years were frequently interrupted by the need to work to support his family.

"Because of the economic circumstances of my family, I had to change to studies during the evening, as I had to work during the day in order to help support my family," Hume wrote in his 1992 letter of application to Ziemann.

"It was during this time (1976-1980) that I felt the call of God to the priesthood. But I could not enter as a student in the seminary as my parents did not have the financial means. I had to dedicate myself to work, and so I had to make a seminary within my family."

According to Hume's attorney, it was also at this time that Hume began acting like a priest, performing certain ecclesiastic duties in Costa Rica for which he was not ordained and that later got him into trouble with church authorities.

From 1980 to 1982, Hume lived and worked in Mexico City, according to his application to Ziemann, with the intention of studying philosophy.

In 1983, Hume went to the Diocese of Comayagua in neighboring Honduras, where he obtained entry to its seminary, Seminario Mayor, in the capital city of Tegucigalpa. Hume's attorney, Cordova, has said that during his formal education, he realized he had erroneously performed priestly duties and sought a pardon.

The bishop of Comayagua, Geraldo Scarpone, granted a dispensation on Jan. 8, 1983, giving Hume a certified document that said he was "excused from all irregularities that happened during offenses committed against" the church's laws on becoming a priest. Nonetheless, Hume was expelled from the seminary after the school's director launched an investigation into his background.

Scarpone ordered the school to give Hume an opportunity to take final exams for the semester and admonished the director for expelling Hume for previous violations of church law regulating priestly conduct. In his May 29, 1984 letter, Scarpone described Hume's transgressions as "impeding his receipt of the orders of a priest, but not his studies of theology."

Scarpone also explained that he issued the dispensation in 1983 "in order not to have problems in the future." He also said he did not inform the school of his action because Hume's misdeeds were committed as a youth who apparently did not know any better.

Hume's 1992 letter to Ziemann does not mention his studies in Honduras, and he answered "no" on the application to the question of whether he had applied for admission to a seminary before. Instead, Hume wrote that in 1983 and 1984, he was "working very hard to collect some money in order to pay my bills from travels and my studies."

Transcripts from two colleges in Mexico City, the Universidad Intercontinental and the Universidad La Salle, show he attended both schools in 1985 and 1986. Most courses were in theology, church history and biblical studies.

The official Universidad Intercontinental transcript, however, differs from a course list submitted by Hume with his application to the Santa Rosa Diocese. Hume's list, which apparently bears an official stamp from the school, shows an additional two dozen courses he said he took in 1987 and 1988. However, an official at the school's scholastic services department told The Press Democrat last week it has no record of Hume attending the school in 1987 or 1988.

Hume's 1992 letter to Ziemann said his studies in the Mexico City universities were hampered by having to work at the same time he studied theology.

"At the same time, this helped me to mature in my vocation and to become more sure that God had invited me into the service of the gospel," he wrote. "I wanted to be another Christ on this earth. I've had ups and downs, but most important is my desire to serve God and my brothers."

Hume has told associates in the Santa Rosa Diocese that he became associated with the Claretian order in Chicago and that he was a seminarian in a New York area diocese. A Claretian official confirmed that Hume was a seminarian from 1986 until 1990, when he was expelled after being found to be acting as a priest during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

The ruse was discovered, according the Claretian documents, when two women came to a Claretian parish in Chicago asking for Hume and produced photographs of Hume celebrating Mass.

Two years later, Hume was expelled from a third seminary, this one in La Paz, Bolivia. He was ejected for falsifying a resume of his background, and for immoral conduct that included possession of pornographic materials and contraceptive devices, according to documents.

Hume came to the Santa Rosa Diocese in mid-July of 1992 on the recommendation of the Rev. Jesse Galaz, the director of vocations for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, where Ziemann had been a ranking church official before his appointment to the Santa Rosa Diocese on July 14, 1992 -- four days before Hume wrote his letter of introduction to the new bishop.

Attorneys for both men said Ziemann and Hume first met in Santa Rosa. Documents obtained by The Press Democrat do not indicate that the bishop and the would-be priest were acquainted beforehand.

Hume first approached the Rev. Xavier Ochoa, the Santa Rosa Diocese's director of Hispanic vocations, in mid-July and he was interviewed by Ochoa over a period of several days, according to letters to Ziemann written by Hume and Ochoa.

In a July 20, 1992 letter to Ziemann, Ochoa recommended that Hume be sent to the Parish of St. Mary of the Angels in Ukiah where Hume could get instruction in spiritual matters as well as in American culture. Ochoa proposed that, if Hume got a favorable review, he could be ordained as a deacon within a year on the way to eventually becoming a priest.

"I believe he is an unsophisticated person, with a profound maturity acquired from a base of suffering and confrontation with the harsh reality of life," Ochoa wrote.

In November 1993 -- little more than a year later -- Ziemann ordained Hume a priest. Hume's rapid rise to the priesthood is in sharp contrast with the usual eightyear course of study required of U.S. priests, which Ziemann completed in Los Angeles before he became a priest.

But officials at the national Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C., said that while extensive philosophical and theological study is normally required of student priests, the decision to ordain rests completely with the bishop of the diocese in which a student seeks to be a priest.

Within two years of Hume's ordination, events turned sour for the new priest. He was transferred out of Ukiah after admitting stealing money from St. Mary of the Angel's parish and being accused of molesting Latino men. Later, Hume lost his right to administer sacraments and say Mass after similar misconduct charges were made at a parish in Napa.

Hume was on a leave of absence when he went to Santa Rosa police in June and filed a lawsuit in July accusing Ziemann of forcing him to have sex.


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