Diocese Accused of " Smoke and Mirrors"

By Valerie Hurst
April 3, 2008

[with video]

The bishop says he made some mistakes keeping a man accused of kiddie porn on the job.

He wants to set things right with the church and public.

But the accused says the church is using him to cover up the real scandal.

Yakima attorney JJ Sandlin tells Action News his client, Juan Gonzalez, is a victim of abuse and cover up.

"Back at that seminary there were serious bad things going on and he was up to here with it..." Sandlin says.

Gonzalez was arrested last month for allegedly looking at kiddie porn while at an Oregon seminary in 2003.

But Sandlin says those allegations are false, and Gonzalez accepted them only because he wanted to get dismissed from the seminary.

Sandlin says the bishop showed there was no merit to the allegations by continuing to employ Gonzalez in Cowiche, even after charges were filed.

"And now just because it becomes public now they've decided to let him go," Sandlin says.

But Bishop Carlos Sevilla... says that's a lie.

At a Tuesday meet with the press, he claimed he wasn't aware of the charges.

Now he wishes he'd followed up.

Sevilla thought Gonzalez made a one-time mistake.

He decided he could work as a full time retreat director.

The bishop insisted he was being open about his errors.

"A series of errors in judgment, if you read the press release, a whole bunch of them..."

Voice of the Faithful, a group of active Catholics who look out for victims of sexual abuse, say whether Gonzalez was a danger to the church or not, they believe he was abused as a young seminarian in training.

"I believe him," Robert Fontana says.

(reporter) "Why do you believe him?"

"Because the priest took a leave of absence and the priest went into a treatment center..."

Fontana says Gonzalez isn't the only one.

He believes the diocese has a problem still with seminarians abusing their students.

The bishop says Gonzalez's abuse claims are simply that--he's more concerned about the child porn charges.

Voice of the Faithful tells us more local cases of abuse will come to light.

We asked the diocese's chief of staff about yesterday's heated press conference.

He tells us the bishop feels good about it, and that he accomplished his goal of opening up about his mistakes.


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