Congregation Split over Priest Accused of Indecent Acts

By Monica Merced
El Paso Times
June 7, 1999

Allegations against a Catholic priest who may have committed indecent acts with a child are dividing some in the Catholic community.

"I think this has happened several times, and he's gotten away with it," said Susan Sandoval, who was the principal of St. Patrick's Elementary School, a Catholic diocese church, for eight years.

Sandoval worked at St. Patrick's while the Rev. Jose Alfredo Olivas also worked at the church. Olivas was arrested Friday and charged with indecency with a child.

Olivas, who is out on $30,000 bond, could not be reached for comment Sunday. Olivas had been at Santo Ni?o de Atocha church for the past eight years.

According to police, Crimes Against Children conducted an investigation in which they concluded there was enough evidence to arrest Olivas on charges he acted inappropriately with a minor in the summer of 1998.

Many of Olivas' congregation are backing their priest.

"I don't think he did it. I don't think there's any way ... he did something like that," said Jose M. Gomez, who is a member of the Santo Ni?o de Atocha Church.

Sandoval, who had two children attending the school while she was the principal, said she was always bothered by Olivas.

"We just never trusted him," Sandoval said, adding that similar allegations have been made against him in the past.

"I have absolutely no proof, but he's a scary guy. If I had a teen-age boy, I wouldn't want him close to him," Sandoval said.

While in El Paso, Olivas has also worked at the All Saint's Catholic Church on Dakota Street, as well as St. Patrick's and Santo Ni?o.

Sunday, the chancellor of the Diocese of El Paso, the Rev. Richard Matty, led services at the Lower Valley church, and then talked to the congregation for a few minutes about the allegations after the service.

Reporters were not allowed into the service, but according to Gomez, Matty told the congregation that it's too early to pass judgment. Gomez said that the chancellor said, "everything is up in the air right now, and comments were unnecessary at this point because of the ongoing investigation."

Matty said Olivas was placed on administrative leave. He said the diocese will conduct its own investigation.

Matty also said the diocese learned of the allegations when the alleged victim's family contacted them. The child's and the family's names are being withheld from the public, as in all sexual cases, in order to protect their identities.


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