But it’s easy to believe in the magic that the Catholic Church habitually produces when it slaps a priest’s white collar on a convicted sex offender. In such a case, in a manner of seconds, a scum-of-the-earth child molester is transformed into a divinely inspired authority on right and wrong. It truly is miraculous to behold.
When the Rev. John Anthony Salazar arrived in Tulia, Texas, in 1991, he was warmly welcomed by the Roman Catholic community tucked in the Texas Panhandle. What his new parishioners didn’t know was he’d been hired out of a treatment program for pedophile priests — and that he’d been convicted for child molestation and banned from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for life.
The priest turned out to be your typical recidivist.
Over the next 11 years, Salazar would be accused of abusing four more children and young men in Texas, including an 18-year-old parishioner who suffered teeth marks on his genitals.
None of it should have been surprising. In 1987, Salazar had pleaded guilty to one count of oral copulation and one count of lewd or lascivious acts with a child for molesting two altar boys, ages 13 and 14.
He served three years of a six-year prison term before being sent in 1990 to a residential program in New Mexico that treated pedophile priests. He was also required to register as a sex offender.
One year later, the Diocese of Amarillo hired Salazar and assigned him to a vast, rural parish in the Panhandle while he was still on parole.
The bishop of the Catholic diocese, Leroy Matthiesen of Amarillo, seemed mildly offended when L.A. Cardinal Roger Mahony warned him in writing about the pedophile priest.
“You must think I don’t screen applicants well. I assure you I do, and that I have rejected a number of them,” Matthiesen wrote Mahony in a Jan. 28, 1992, letter contained in Salazar’s archdiocese file. “The Diocese of Amarillo has 38 parish priests and 38,000 registered Catholics. … I am able to keep careful tabs on all our priests.”
The self-regard is staggering. Four fresh Texas victims would soon experience how scrupulous Matthiesen was in “keeping tabs” on Father Salazar.
Matthiesen died in 2010, but in an autobiography he defended his decision to hire molesting priests from the aftercare program, saying they had “repented, paid the price, were rehabilitated, stayed within the boundaries laid out for them.” … “These are the types of priests I accepted into the diocese,” he wrote. “I have no regrets for having done so.”
Although the good bishop was thoroughly informed of Salazar’s background, neither he nor any of his colleagues ever bothered to tell the priest’s parishioners who they were dealing with.
The Church, as has so often been the case, considered itself exempt from the reporting requirements regarding sex offenders, and claims the privilege of dealing with all manner of crimes internally.
No secular justice system can compel it; no accountability is in evidence; and no future victim’s mental and bodily integrity is important enough to change any of it.