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'It's Hard Being Catholic Right Now': The Utah Response To Ongoing Sexual Abuse

Image of cathedral.
Lee Hale / KUER
Cathedral of the Madeleine in downtown Salt Lake City.

Cristina Rosetti considers herself a practicing Catholic, but she can’t square her faith with the recently exposed abuses of church leaders.

“It’s hard to be Catholic right now,” Rosetti said.  

Rosetti moved to Utah a year ago to finish her Ph.D. in religous studies. Growing upshe attended Mass now and then, but since officially converting two years ago she’s only missed twice. It’s a weekly ritual. But in light of the most recent revelations on Catholic Church-wide sexual abuse, she said worshiping hasn’t been easy.

Rosetti said that seeing the recent findings from a Pennsylvania Grand Jury that estimated around 300 clergy may have abused children — and everything that has followed — has taken its toll. For one, she has no desire to go to confession anymore.

“I can’t do it,” Rosetti said. “I’m not walking into a confessional with a representative of an abusive institution and asking them to absolve my sins.”

The news of ongoing abuse has now reached Utah, too. Last week, a Catholic priest in American Fork, David Gaeta, was put on leave while he’s being investigated by the Division of Child and Family Services and the Salt Lake City Diocese for child abuse. Law enforcement in Ogden, where Gaeta used to work, has also been notified according to the Diocese.

Image of Bishop Solis.
Credit Lee Hale / KUER
Bishop Oscar Solis

Some changes are already underway in Utah. The head of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, Bishop Oscar Solis, issued a statementearlier this month in response to the findings in Pennsylvania. He expressed “personal shame, distress and anger concerning the abuse committed by some priests.”

Next week, Solis will meet with a few selected Utah priests to discuss the scandal, determine how best the Diocese can reach out to victims and review the current safety policies in place.

Rosetti said she’d also like to see more preventive measures. At her home parish, the Cathedral of the Madeleine in downtown Salt Lake City, she’s seen notes in the bulletin that encourage those who have been abused to get help.

“They do encourage reporting, but that’s not something I see at every parish,” Rosetti said.

She said that hindsight has taught her that the Catholic Church cannot handle these investigations itself and she wants outside agencies to be more involved in rooting out the system issue.

Lee Hale began listening to KUER while he was teaching English at a Middle School in West Jordan (his one hour commute made for plenty of listening time). Inspired by what he heard he applied for the Kroc Fellowship at NPR headquarters in DC and to his surprise, he got it. Since then he has reported on topics ranging from TSA PreCheck to micro apartments in overcrowded cities to the various ways zoo animals stay cool in the summer heat. But, his primary focus has always been education and he returns to Utah to cover the same schools he was teaching in not long ago. Lee is a graduate of Brigham Young University and is also fascinated with the way religion intersects with the culture and communities of the Beehive State. He hopes to tell stories that accurately reflect the beliefs that Utahns hold dear.
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