Reporting Maria Medina
SACRAMENTO (CBS13/AP) — A priest was arrested Wednesday night on charges of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor, according to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento.
Father Uriel Ojeda, 32, was arrested by the Sacramento Police Department at 8 p.m. at police headquarters and booked into the Sacramento County jail.
Ojeda was assigned to Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Redding and prior to that was a priest at Holy Rosary Parish in Woodland until being transferred in the summer of 2009.
Ojeda was one of the “magnificent seven” — the largest number of priests in decades to be ordained at once. The group was credited for rising above the sex scandals that rocked the Catholic church years ago.
“I have personally spoken to the family involved and they are in great pain. … What they have endured has been difficult, and I grieve for what they have suffered and are suffering,” said Bishop Jaime Soto at a noon news conference Thursday in Sacramento. “Yet I also admire the courage with which they have come forward.”
Ojeda is being held in the Sacramento County jail on charges of lewd or lascivious act with a child under 14 and lewd acts on a child under 14 in which the victim was at least 10 years younger than the perpetrator. Bail was set at $5 million, and Ojeda was scheduled to appear in court Friday, according to jail records.
Soto said the family approached the diocese on Tuesday and church officials immediately contacted Child Protective Services and Sacramento police. They drove to Redding on Wednesday, placed Ojeda on paid administrative leave and drove back with him to Sacramento.
“He cannot function as a priest,” Soto said. “He cannot present himself as a priest.”
No charges have been filed yet, said Shelly Orio, spokeswoman for the Sacramento County District Attorney’s office.
The bishop said the diocese wants to encourage any other potential victims to come forward, and it will make announcements in parishes where Ojeda has served in the Woodland and Redding areas.
“Anyone who believes that they have been a victim of Father Ojeda or other abuse needs to contact the diocese,” he said.
“It disheartens all the priests,” Soto said.