Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of a Los Angeles auxiliary bishop accused of sexually abusing a minor in the latest case of alleged molestation to rock the Roman Catholic Church, officials said Wednesday.
In a one-line statement, the Vatican said Alexander Salazar, 69, an auxiliary bishop in Los Angeles, was resigning, but also released a letter from Archbishop Jose H. Gomez explaining that the accusation dated to the 1990s.
Gomez said the L.A. archdiocese was made aware of the allegation in 2005, a year after Salazar was named a bishop.
The accusation was never directly reported to the archdiocese, but was investigated by the police in 2002 and did not lead to prosecution at the time, Gomez wrote.
Since Salazar was a bishop at the time the allegation was received, the archdiocese referred the matter to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which investigates clergy.
The congregation “imposed certain precautionary measures on the ministry of Bishop Salazar,” Gomez wrote, without providing details. Salazar denied any wrongdoing, according to Gomez.
Apparently unsatisfied with the outcome of the Vatican probe, the archbishop sought and received permission from the Vatican to submit the allegation to the L.A. archdiocese’s independent clergy misconduct oversight board.
“The board found the allegation to be credible and I submitted its findings and recommendations along with my own votum to the Holy See to make its final determination as to Bishop Salazar’s status,” Gomez wrote.
Francis’ decision to accept Salazar’s resignation caps a difficult year for the pope, who has seen the church’s long-running abuse scandal flare up in Chile and the U.S.
The pope this year was accused of belittling the claims made by victims of predator priests in Chile before he made a dramatic about-face in April, apologizing to the victims and prompting Chile’s bishops to all offer their resignations.
In July, Francis ousted Francis McCarrick, the retired archbishop of Washington, from the College of Cardinals after he was accused of molesting a minor in the 1970s. Since then, former seminarians have claimed McCarrick tried to share a bed with them.
A former Vatican nuncio to the U.S., Carlo Maria Vigano, then accused Francis of turning a blind eye to McCarrick’s behavior, and called on the pope to resign.
In July, a U.S. grand jury reported that 1,000 children had been molested by Catholic clergy in Pennsylvania since the 1940s.
In a bid to stamp out the scourge of abuse in the church, Francis has since summoned the heads of more than 100 bishops’ conferences to the Vatican in February to discuss remedies.
This week, the organizers of the conference advised bishops to spend time talking to abuse victims before they fly to Rome, “to learn first hand the suffering that they have endured.”
In a letter to bishops they added, "Absent a comprehensive and communal response, not only will we fail to bring healing to victim survivors, but the very credibility of the church to carry on the mission of Christ will be in jeopardy throughout the world.”
Kington is a special correspondent.