AMERICAN FORK, Utah (AP) - A Catholic priest currently serving as a pastor in Utah has been placed on administrative leave while the state and the Diocese of Salt Lake City investigate allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
The Salt Lake City diocese, which oversees all parishes in Utah, announced that the Rev. David R. Gaeta, the pastor at St. Peter Parish in American Fork, was placed on leave Friday.
No attorney or working publicly listed phone number was immediately available for Gaeta.
Gaeta has denied wrongdoing, diocese spokeswoman Jean Hill said.
Hill said the case had been referred to the Division of Child and Family Services because the now-adult accusers were minors when the alleged abuse occurred in the 1980s. She said the allegations were only recently brought to the diocese’s attention.
Ashley Sumner, public information officer for the Department of Human Services, said DCFS could neither confirm nor deny it was investigating Gaeta.
The Catholic Church has come under fire recently for a host of scandals. A Pennsylvania grand jury report alleged that more than 1,000 children were sexually abused by about 300 clergy in six dioceses in that state, and that a “systematic” cover-up effort by church leaders took place over a span of 70 years.
Hill acknowledged that all the recent news has been difficult to hear and called the Pennsylvania accusations “horrifying.”
Nevertheless, she said, even as new allegations arise and as “internal politics” within various church factions seemingly pull the religion in different directions, it is important for people of faith to remember what their true allegiance is to.
“I hope all Catholics understand that the church is made up of flawed human beings, just like every other institution,” she said. “But, in the end, we are not believers because of the leadership.”
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