Rev. Uriel Ojeda, 33, was recently sentenced to eight years in prison for the molestation of a 13-year-old girl. Ojeda had numerous opportunities to have contact with the girl, including sneaking into her bed when he was a guest at the family’s home. Transferred twice, once while working at Holy Rosary Parish in Woodland and then to Our Lady of Mercy in Redding, he still had an opportunity to have improper contact with the girl. Oddly enough, no red flags went up, and Ojeda possibly would have more than likely gotten away with the crime if the victim had not spoken up. Worse yet, it may have continued. The parents suspected nothing. Supporters of Ojeda faithfully stood by him and even seemed shocked by his confession, as the conspiracy theory fell apart in front of their eyes. Was Catholic society too trusting of this man who would scar an adolescent girl and shame the Priesthood?
As the courtroom sat packed with supporters, one can only imagine if they had children of their own. What if this turmoil had happened to their child? Would they sit with such reverence if the shoe were on the other foot? Sadly, the answer may be that they would, as the molestation of the victim lasted almost two years unnoticed spanning from June 29, 2007, to Aug. 30, 2009. This alone shows that Catholic society continued to trust an individual who could not be trusted all because he was under the cloak of Priesthood.
Parents of the victim say that they have been ostracized in the community and live in fear and are filled with anxiety. Taking anger out on the victim is a form of re-victimization. A private investigator revealed that Ojeda had confessed to molestation of the victim to him. Ojeda’s attorney urged him to keep quiet, no matter how badly he wanted to speak, until the case could be proven “without a reasonable doubt.” Yet another individual in the Catholic society had too much faith concerning Ojeda because of his status in the Priesthood. Many would argue that priests should be allowed to be married or that they should not enter the seminary quite as early, shifting blame from the offender to the church to the victim. When the sentencing commenced, supporters of Ojeda cried softly, shook their heads, and sat silent.
Were they all reacting from disbelief that Ojeda would do such a hurtful act? What about the victim? What about the tears she shed? With so much trust placed in one person, when acts like this occur, it is easy to turn the offender into the victim and vice versa because of religious beliefs. One statement read by the victim was Ojeda “devalued the meaning of being a Catholic.” Now the big question is how much did he devalue the victim? With religion being as much a part of one as race or nationality, it is easy to get wrapped up into what we want a person to be instead of who they are, leading to displaced trust in Catholic society’s priesthood and victims who must try to carry on with horrific memories.
Written by: Kimberly Michelle Scott