By Joe Bukuras
The Archdiocese of San Antonio, Texas, has removed two of its incardinated priests from ministry after receiving substantiated allegations of child sexual abuse.
Father Alejandro Ortega of St. Monica Catholic Church in Converse and Father Jesus Eduardo “Lalo” Martinez-Solis of St. Joseph-Honey Creek Church in Spring Branch were both accused of sexually abusing minors. The allegations were referred to law enforcement, the archdiocese said.
Both men had their faculties removed and are prohibited from identifying themselves as priests. They are forbidden from wearing clerical clothing and using clerical titles.
In Ortega’s case, the child reported the abuse during a retreat. The parish notified the teen’s parents and the archdiocese, which referred the allegations to the Bexar County District Attorney’s Special Crimes Division, according to a statement from San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS.
CNA reached out to the DA’s office for comment, but no one was available.
An investigation into the allegations against Ortega was conducted by a private investigator and reviewed by the archdiocesan review board, which advises the archbishop on clergy sexual abuse accusations.
There was “sufficient evidence of sexually inappropriate physical contact with a minor to require that I refer the matter to the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith for their judgment on the matter,” the archbishop’s statement said.
Ortega “may pose a continuing risk to minors,” should not be returned to ministry, and the affected communities should be notified, the review board told the archbishop, according to the statement.
“I would like to publicly express my gratitude to the survivor for bravely coming forward and helping our Church by sharing this personal and painful experience,” García-Siller said.
“I hope that this will also assist the healing process and provide inspiration to other survivors of sexual abuse to report to the authorities these tragic incidents,” he added.
Ortega, previously a priest of the Legionaries of Christ, was incardinated into the archdiocese on Feb. 22, 2021, according to a March 25, 2021, statement from the archdiocese.
Martinez-Solis formerly served in the Archdiocese of Chicago and was incardinated into the archdiocese on Feb. 24, 2021, according to an archdiocesan spokesperson.
In a separate statement, García-Siller said that an allegation was made against Martinez-Solis through the archdiocesan misconduct hotline on July 25. Martinez-Solis was removed from ministry the next day and the allegation was referred to the Comal County Sheriff’s Department.
An independent investigator also privately researched the allegations in the case of Martinez-Solis. After reviewing the investigation report, the archdiocesan review board said the allegations were substantiated and that the archbishop should refer the case to the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, the statement said.
The review board said that Martinez-Solis poses a risk to minors, should not be returned to ministry, and that the affected communities should be notified.
“Our investigation highlighted the importance of our Code of Conduct and guidelines for ministry with minors, and of the value of our Virtus training, which helped us address this misconduct in a timely manner and prevent more serious abuse,” the archbishop said.
“I would like to express my gratitude and respect to the minor teen who bravely came forward and helped our Church by participating in the investigation,” he said.
“The archdiocese takes seriously any allegation of sexual misconduct with children. The safety and well-being of all people are very important, and the Church’s safe environment policies seek to protect all of God’s children,” he said.
Garcia encouraged any victim of sexual abuse to contact law enforcement and any victim within the archdiocese to contact the Office for Victim Assistance and Safe Environment at 210-734-7786.
A third party can report violations through the Archdiocesan Misconduct Hotline at 844-709-1169.
“I pledge my commitment to continue to work toward making every Catholic Church, school, and institution a safe harbor for all of our children. Please join me in prayer as we reach out to any and all who may be victims of sexual abuse,” García-Siller said.
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