Hume May Always Remain a Priest, Despite Lay Protests

By Mike Geniella
Press Democrat
April 27, 2000

The Catholic Church's decision to allow the Rev. Jorge Hume Salas to remain a priest is not a requirement of a legal settlement agreed to by the former Ukiah priest, the church and Bishop G. Patrick Ziemann.

"It is a decision independent of the settlement," said Maurice Healy, a spokesman for the Diocese of Santa Rosa and San Francisco Archbishop William Levada. Levada continues as interim administrator of the Diocese of Santa Rosa until newly appointed Bishop Daniel Walsh takes over May 22.

Reacting to calls from North Coast Catholics for Hume to be permanently barred from the church, Healy acknowledged the church could take such action, but called it "a significant and long-term process."

"I would suggest to those who are demanding his ouster to put their shoulders to an effort to bring about that process under provisions of canon law," Healy said.

Church leaders believe there are adequate safeguards to prevent misconduct on Hume's part, Healy said, because he remains legally tied to the Santa Rosa diocese through a church process called "incardination." If Hume petitions any other diocese in the world to resume active ministry, that process calls for a background check to be made with the Santa Rosa diocese.

"We intend to fully disclose that background. Under those circumstances, it's highly unlikely any bishop would accept him anywhere," Healy said.

But critics noted Hume fraudulently became a priest by submitting false documents to Ziemann before his ordination seven years ago, and asked what would prevent that from happening again.

Monsignor Thomas Green, an expert in church law at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., said Wednesday that officials in other dioceses have the latitude to allow Hume to resume his role as a priest, even if they learn of his background.

As it is, Hume will always be a priest under church law, Green said. The only question is whether he will be allowed to resume active ministry.

"The bottom line is that, as amazing as it may seem, there is virtually little that can be done to attack the validity of a priest's ordination, even if there was fraud involved," Green said.

"A bishop has wide latitude in regards to accepting any priest into his diocese. If he believes it's worth ignoring a troubled past, he can do so," he said.

Hume recently returned from his native Costa Rica to the Napa Valley, where he has been staying since he filed suit against Ziemann in July. His lawyers have said Hume doesn't have any immediate plans, but that he doesn't intend to remain in the United States.

Ziemann has officially retired as a bishop, and is in seclusion at a monastery in the Southwest, according to church representatives. As a bishop, he retains all the privileges of his position, including the ability to perform priestly functions and draw retirement pay, they said.

"It is a decision independent of the settlement."


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