Parishoners Support Priest Arrested in Internet Sting

Parishoners Support Priest Arrested in Internet Sting

Save Story
Leer en espaƱol

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

OGDEN, Utah (AP) -- Utah's Roman Catholic diocese turned its back on the Rev. Mario Arbelaez Olarte by suspending the priest after his arrest on a misdemeanor charge of enticing a minor over the Internet, parishioners say.

"Instead of helping him, they're already crucifying him," said Antonio Hernandez, a parishioner at St. Joseph's Catholic Church, where Olarte was a respected figure in Ogden's Latino community.

"What can members of the church expect if they make a small mistake? Will they excommunicate us?" said Hernandez, speaking in Spanish.

Others are complaining about the Salt Lake City diocese's treatment of Olarte. The diocese covers all of Utah.

"We're just wondering why they are being so cruel," parishioner Alejandra Escobedo said. "They are supposed to be the mother of our faith."

Olarte, 44, was arrested May 14 as he met a police detective who was posing over the Internet as a 15-year-old boy. Arbelaez said he was researching the dangers of the Internet.

A pretrial conference is set for June 24. If convicted, Olarte could be deported back to Colombia.

The diocese says it followed a policy established in the early 1990s to automatically suspend any church employee over credible charges of illegal or improper conduct.

"If (police) feel that the charges were strong enough to make an arrest, our policy is to basically allow the authorities to do their job and we take our cues from that," diocese spokeswoman Monica Howa-Johnson said.

Bishop George Niederauer, the top Catholic official in Utah, will re-evaluate Olarte's status if the priest is cleared of the charge, Howa-Johnson said.

Hernandez thinks Arbelaez already is being punished.

"The people of the church are very unhappy," Hernandez said.

"The church authority is already judging him. They are acting in the ways of the high inquisition. They are judging him even before the courts of the United States do."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Most recent Utah stories

Related topics



Get informative articles and interesting stories delivered to your inbox weekly. Subscribe to the Trending 5.
By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

KSL Weather Forecast