Following the tragic events that have recently unfolded at Penn State University, child molestation continues to plague our society. November 30 witnessed another priest, affiliated with the Roman Catholic diocese, get taken into custody after allegedly committing lewd and salacious acts with a child. The Rev. Uriel Ojeda, 32, turned himself in on Wednesday after the diocese received a complaint from a parishioner’s family.
As one of the youngest priests in the diocese, Ojeda was highly regarded and seen as a key component between church and Hispanic relations in the local community. He donated a significant amount of time and effort into tending for Latino Catholics at the hospital and in the farm fields. While acting as a vicar at Holy Rosary Parish in Woodland, Ojeda became known for his involvement in the community. Younger children praised him for teaching them to play the guitar and drums. Seemingly integrated into the youth movement of his community, Ojeda played bass in a church band, wore Converse tennis shoes and likes Spider-Man comics.
According to Laura Peck, a spokeswoman for police officials, Ojeda was arrested at police headquarters on suspicion of multiple counts of molestation. He is currently being held in the Sacramento County jail on charges of lewd or lascivious acts with a child under the age of 14. Subsequent charges leveled against Ojeda include lewd acts on a child under 14 in which the victim was at least 10 years younger than the perpetrator. In accordance with his alleged actions, Ojeda is set to appear in court on Friday while his bail is set at $5 million.
Bishop Jaime Soto announced, in a news conference following Ojeda’s arrest, that church officials immediately contacted Child Protective Services and Sacramento police after hearing of these heinous actions. Accordingly, the bishop stressed the diocese’s quick response to the allegations.
Chico Chavez, of the Sacramento chapter of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, confirmed that the diocese acted quickly to alert the public to the allegations against Ojeda, but he said the diocese has not always been so responsive. He continued to acknowledged that the church should continue to exhibit the same sense of urgency witnessed this week.
“It’s taken years of lawsuits and a number of arrests in order for the diocese to begin to get the message that the public wants to keep kids safe,” said Chavez. “It appears as though they responded adequately and our hope is that they continue to do so in the future.”
According to Kevin Eckery, a spokesman for the church, the Sacramento diocese promises to take immediate action in notifying the public of the lewd acts allegedly committed by Ojeda. Subsequently, the church plans to notify those who were directly under Ojeda’s care during his time as priest.
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