A Roman Catholic pastor in Tennessee confessed in an open letter that as a 19-year-old seminarian he was the goal of sexual advances by an older priest later accused of abusing different teenagers, and admits he did not forcefully sound the alarm about this “troublesome individual.”
Father Brent Shelton insisted he was “not a sexual abuse sufferer, as such, however I’m a witness to priestly predation, which I used to be complicit in protecting up.”
Shelton didn’t say within the letter why he selected this yr to disclose that Father Jose Saldana, now deceased, allegedly “compelled himself on high” of him at a Pink Roof Inn in Texas greater than three many years in the past.
“I’ve considered that lodge incident each single day because it occurred over 30 years in the past, however I cringe each time any priest or bishop speaks of the necessity for ‘therapeutic’ in these conditions,” Shelton, who’s pastor of St. Mary Parish in Oak Ridge, wrote. “In my case, I’ve this cross to hold, and I intend to proceed doing so, providing it up for reform in Our Lord’s Church.”
Shelton didn’t reply to telephone calls or an emailed request for remark.
His letter printed Feb. 1 by Catholic blogger Religion Hakesley and up to date in March, got here amid studies that his bishop, Rick Stika of the Knoxville Diocese, was beneath fireplace for allegedly interfering within the diocesan investigation of a seminarian accused of sexually assaulting a male church employee. The unidentified seminarian in Tennessee was not Saldana, a priest who labored in Texas.
“Father Shelton stated that this publish was written final yr and shouldn’t be construed as a response to any current studies concerning the Diocese of Knoxville,” diocesan spokesman Jim Wogan stated in an e mail. “He feels it can be crucial so that you can perceive this.”
The Pillar, a neighborhood Catholic newspaper, first reported the Vatican had obtained complaints from clergymen and parishioners within the Diocese of Knoxville concerning the bishop’s alleged actions on behalf of the accused seminarian.
“With respect to the allegations raised by The Pillar, we aren’t conscious of any investigation by the Vatican into the Diocese of Knoxville or Bishop Stika,” Wogan stated.
Wogan stated Friday that Stika denies he interfered with the investigation. However Stika informed the Pillar that he eliminated an investigator for inflicting confusion and changed him with a retired police officer, who informed the newspaper that he interviewed solely the accused seminarian.
NBC Information’ Vatican correspondent reached out to the Congregation for Bishops in Rome a couple of potential investigation of Stika however has not but obtained a response.
In his letter, Shelton stated that if the church is to root out drawback clergymen, bishops should be included in “this dialogue.”
“Bishops are, on the entire, delicate males, very delicate to what individuals consider them,” Shelton wrote. “Due to this fact, if we’re dedicated to the fruitfulness of the Church, then we should discover ways to work with them as they’re. If we simply condemn them, then they’ll ignore us, and the Church will undergo.”
Saldana was outed as a predator priest in 2019 by Bishop of Dallas Edwards Burns. Saldana had served in a dozen Texas parishes within the Dallas, Fort Value and Tyler dioceses. He’s listed as deceased by the diocese. The dioceses didn’t have any remark concerning the allegations towards Saldana.
Michell Garabedian, the Boston lawyer whose efforts on behalf of predator priest victims have been dramatized within the Oscar-winning transfer “Highlight,” stated most of the survivors have been teenage seminarians.
“It’s fairly frequent for younger seminarians to be sexually abused by predator clergymen who’ve or do belong to spiritual orders, dioceses and archdioceses,” Garabedian stated in an e mail. “Via the years I’ve represented dozens of seminarians who have been sexually abused by clergymen or spiritual brothers whereas their supervisors regarded the opposite approach. Some sexually abused seminarians will depart the seminary because of the sexual abuse and others will proceed on within the seminary.”
Shelton, in his letter, stated his alleged encounter with Saldana almost drove him from the priesthood.
A Catholic convert, Shelton stated he was 17 when Saldana took over as pastor of his parish, St. Michael Parish in Mt. Nice, Texas.
“The brand new pastor in Mt. Nice was clearly a troubled man, and started sexually propositioning me quickly after his arrival,” he wrote.
Shelton admitted that he “did not react decisively to this persistent propositioning.”
“I used to be nervous that Saldana may stop me from becoming a member of the Church or coming into the seminary, and so I used to be very decided to not overreact to the complicated state of affairs,” he wrote.
On the energy of Saldana’s suggestion, Shelton stated he entered the seminary. And as soon as enrolled, he agreed to go along with Saldana to the state truthful regardless that it was towards the principles.
“I used to be effectively conscious of the hazard posed by Saldana,” the pastor wrote. “However I concluded that I had extra clout as a seminarian than I did beforehand, and so I assumed he was unlikely to hassle me past what I may repel.”
That was, Shelton wrote, a mistake.
“All through your entire night time within the lodge, he repeatedly compelled himself on high of me, not in an tried rape, as such, however in a kind of desperation,” Shelton wrote. “I lacked the forcefulness wanted to reply definitively to the state of affairs, and was effectively conscious of the character of a predicament I had brought on each by absenting myself with out permission from the seminary and by consenting to share a room with this troublesome individual.”
Shelton stated he stored quiet about what occurred and dropped out of the seminary. He stated he went into regulation enforcement and labored for a pair years for a sheriff’s workplace in east Texas.
Finally, Shelton stated, he informed his priestly mentor, Father Joe Dean, “about my troubles with Saldana, and he assured me that the issue had been resolved.”
He stated that with Dean’s assist, he returned to the seminary and have become a priest. Dean died in 2007.
“My aim was to discover a approach to reply the decision to the priesthood with out ever having to see, hear from or hear about Saldana once more,” he wrote.
Shelton stated that he made, through the years, “a number of admittedly weak makes an attempt to debate Saldana with somebody on the Tyler chancery.” However in any other case, he stored silent.
“I’m very effectively conscious that it was my very own reticence and lack of braveness that led me out of my dwelling diocese to be able to distance myself from Saldana,” he wrote.
It wasn’t till 2019, when based on Shelton, he learn that Saldana had been “credibly accused” of abusing youngsters that he reached out to Bishop Burns.