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AMERICAN FORK — A pastor in American Fork has been placed on administrative leave as allegations of sexual misconduct against children from decades ago are investigated.
The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City placed Father David R. Gaeta on leave on Friday, according to a statement from the diocese.
Originally, Jean Hill, government liaison for diocese, said the allegation appeared to involve a boy from American Fork. She later corrected the diocese's statement, saying the allegation is actually from alleged incidents between 1980 and 1984 when Gaeta had a parish in Ogden. She said the allegations involve two people who were inappropriately touched when they were boys during that time.
Hill did not know what prompted the alleged victims to come forward now. She also did not know how old the boys were at the time of the alleged incidents. Hill said the diocese contacted the Division of Child and Family Services, even though the victims are now adults. She said a law enforcement agency was investigating, but she did not know which one.
Gaeta has denied the allegations, Hill said.
He was ordained for the diocese in 1980. He was in Ogden from 1980-84 and left Utah in 1985. He returned to Utah, in American Fork, in 2017, she said.
At Gaeta's church, St. Peter, the congregation was told in an announcement from the pulpit that he had been placed on leave, "pending the outcome of the investigation by the diocese. This matter has been reported to law enforcement, and we will cooperate with law enforcement in its investigation. … Please continue to pray for all those impacted by this matter."
A similar but separate announcement was made at other parishes in Ogden, Huntsville, Hyde Park, Salt Lake City, Moab and Hill Air Force Base.
"We regret to inform you that the diocese of Salt Lake City received allegations of sexual misconduct against Father David R. Gaeta which involved minors," according to that statement.
The diocese asked anyone with information or concerns about the case to call Sandy Growe, victims assistance coordinator, at 801-328-8641.
The allegations come on the heels of a scathing Pennsylvania grand jury report about clergy who raped and molested an estimated 1,000 children in six dioceses over a 70-year period. The report prompted a letter from the Vatican expressing "shame and repentance” for the church's failure to protect the children.