Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Yakima Admits Hiring Employee under Investigation for Viewing Child Porn Online

April 2, 2008

[with video]

Yakima, WA - The Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Yakima comes under fire at a Tuesday afternoon press conference.

Bishop Carlos Sevilla admitted that he knowingly hired an employee who was under investigation for viewing child porn online while at seminary in Oregon back in 2003.

37-year-old Juan Gonzalez now sits in a Yakima County Jail awaiting extradition back to Oregon to face this charge.

Meanwhile, the bishop tried to explain why Gonzalez was hired in the first place.

"I hope that I can learn from my mistakes, and I think I have in the five years or so," says Bishop Sevilla, "I think I have."

The bishop admitted it was a mistake to hire someone who was under investigation and that now the diocese performs strict background checks.

Gonzalez was charged in 2005 and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

He was finally picked up about two weeks ago after a traffic stop in Tieton.

Gonzalez had been working at the Saint Peter Retreat in Cowiche, and although the bishop says he wasn't supposed to, Gonzalez did work with some minors in unsupervised situations.

The bishop thinks he taught four classes at two different parishes.

People who live and work on the grounds did not want to speak with KNDO Local News on camera, but told us that they did not know about the charge against Gonzalez until they heard about it from us.

They also say that there were no problems with Gonzalez that they knew of.

"I do think there's a culture in church that's so deeply engrained to protect the priest and to protect as much of the church that it's hard to act any other way," says Robert Fontana of Voice of the Faithful.

"These people knew all along about my client, Mr. Gonzales," says J.J. Sandlin, Gonzalez's attorney, "They were confident in his safety. They were confident in the safety of the parishoners here. When it became a political media issue, they abandoned him."

The diocese says no known abuse took place with Gonzalez during his five years at the retreat, but they will perform an independent investigation.

Both Fontana and Sandlin brought up alleged sexual abuse by a priest against Gonzalez while at the seminary in Oregon.

The bishop was quick to point out that it was an allegation and that Gonzalez was an adult when it happened.

Fontana said it still represented an abuse of power by the priest.


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