Diocese reveals more accusations of sexual abuse by former Northstate Catholic priests

KRCR [Redding CA]

September 30, 2021

By Kelli Saam

REDDING, Calif. — The Sacramento Diocese has revealed new allegations of sexual abuse by priests. The list includes six new allegations against five former priests, some of whom were assigned to churches in the Northstate in the past.

These latest claims name five priests who had been previously accused of sexual misconduct against minors. Since the diocese revealed a list of accused priests in 2019, new victims have come forward alleging six additional instances of abuse involving five former priests.

The new entries result from the completion of the Independent Compensation Program. Under this program, which ran from September 2019 to the summer of 2021, individuals were able to seek compensation in a confidential process for claims of abuse by diocesan priests, regardless of when the abuse occurred, without going to court. The independent program administrators reviewed each claim and made a determination regarding an offer of settlement.

One new claim names Uriel Ojeda who worked at Our Lady of Mercy in Redding between 2009 and 2011 Ojeda is accused of two instances of abuse between 2007 and 2009, during those years he worked in Woodland and Redding. The new allegation was reported in 2020 involving the sexual touching of a girl under 18. Ojeda pleaded no contest to the sexual molestation of a minor in 2013 and was sentenced to eight years in prison. He was released in 2019. The Sacramento Diocese dismissed Ojeda from the clerical state in March of 2016.

In the original complaint, Ojeda molested a girl who was 13 years old at the time. The lewd acts started when Ojeda was working in Sacramento and continued when he was transferred to a church in Redding.

This week the diocese revealed two new allegations involving former Father Gerardo Beltran Rico who worked at St. Dominic Parish in Orland from 1982-1988. He is a fugitive from justice after 15 victims, both boys and girls accused him of abuse that occurred during the ’80s and ’90s. According to the diocese, he fled to Mexico in December 1991, after a report to police and issuance of an arrest warrant. Ignored multiple requests from Bishop of Sacramento to return and face justice. Beltran Rico was dismissed from priesthood by the Pope in April 2008, based on a petition submitted to Rome by the diocese The new allegations against him were reported in 2019 and 2020 and involved sexual touching of boys under the age of 18 and 14.

Former priest William Feeser died in 2012. He had worked in Red Bluff in 1999 at Sacred Heart and Mercy High School. His alleged abuse happened between 1977 and 1987 before he came to Red Bluff in 1999. Three additional victims came forward in the last two years, reporting sexual touching involving boys under the age of 18 and a girl under the age of 14.

To read more about the abuse documented by the Sacramento Diocese click here.

“This independent program did what we prayed it would do,” Bishop Jaime Soto said. “First and foremost, it created a venue where victims of clergy abuse could come forward and seek justice and healing for the pain that was inflicted on them by men who betrayed their trust. Second, it provided information that we are using to ensure that our reckoning of the past is as thorough and transparent as it needs to be if we are to seek God’s mercy.”

“I continue to pray and seek atonement for the horrible sins of clergy sexual abuse. Because the pain suffered by victims is ongoing, my efforts to safeguard the young and vulnerable – and to hold accountable those who would betray the trust placed in them – must be ongoing as well,” Bishop Soto said. “I will always seek to atone for these sins and to aid the innocent victim-survivors who have been so cruelly betrayed.”

The original report from the diocese in 2019 listed 44 priests and 2 permanent deacons that were credibly accused of sexually abusing 130 minors or young adults aged 25 and under. It was based on a review of the personnel records of nearly 1,500 bishops, priests, and permanent deacons. It spans seven decades, from 1950 to the present time. The greatest number of priests were accused of incidents that started in the 1970s.

The diocese encourages anyone who may be a victim of clergy sexual abuse, or who knows someone who may be, to report this to law enforcement, and to seek help for the pain it has caused. The Diocese’s Pastoral Care Coordinator may be reached through a toll-free number at 866-777-9133.