Shifting the Blame: Sacramento Bishop Makes Outrageous Claims

by | Dec 13, 2023 | Catholic Church

Sacramento Bishop Soto's Horowitz Law

In an unusual blend of candor and evasion, Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto recently came clean about church finances while simultaneously engaging in unsettling deflections. Fresh off the heels of announcing his decision to seek bankruptcy protection due to a horrific legacy of abuse, Soto took an unprecedented step in acknowledging the role of church donations in settling sexual abuse lawsuits. However, his distorted portrayal of the church’s predicament has stirred up controversy, reflecting its continued reluctance to fully accept the gravity of its sins.

Sacramento Bishop’s Confessional About Finances

Unlike some of his counterparts who skillfully dodged this matter, Soto was reasonably forthright about the monetary aspect of settlements. Most bishops, when asked whether contributions made to the church will go towards paying settlements, cleverly tiptoe around the question. For instance, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone has repeatedly assured his followers that donations to the parish offertory or the Archdiocesan Annual Appeal would not subsidize abuse claims settlements. He wrote, “I also want to reassure you that any contributions made to the parish offertory or to the Archdiocesan Annual Appeal will not be used to settle abuse claims.”

Soto, on the other hand, doesn’t mince his words when asked: “Are the funds I donated going to pay settlements?” He responds, “Everything our diocese does, buys, or owns is paid for by the contributions of the Faithful. This includes settling cases and trying to provide some sense of compensation to those who were betrayed by priests they were taught to trust. So, aside from insurance coverage, lawsuit settlement payments are made with funds that began as donations from the People of God.” You can find more questions and repies from Soto in the FAQs” section of Sacramento’s Diocesan website.

It’s sad but noteworthy that such an outright admission calls for acknowledgment. Yet, when it comes to discussing abuse, cover-ups, and compensation, this kind of direct response is more the exception than the rule among Catholic officials.

The Outrageous Claims of Bishop Soto

While Soto deserves some credit for his financial transparency, his subsequent assertions regarding the root cause of the diocese’s predicament call his credibility into question. According to Soto, it’s the heinous deeds committed by individual church staff that have gotten the Diocese into this mess, not the victim-survivors of sexual abuse who have sought to be heard and acknowledged. When asked how the Diocese got into this situation, Soto’s response was, 

“It is these evil acts that brought us to this place – not the victim-survivors of sexual abuse seeking to be heard. He continues, “We are in this situation because of grievous sins committed by individual priests and a small number of deacons and lay employees in our diocese.”

His subtext is alarmingly apparent: the blame for the sexual abuse crisis doesn’t lie with the Catholic church or its administrative structure but with the individual priests, a handful of deacons, and even lay employees who committed these unspeakable acts. What about the bishops, auxiliary bishops, vicars general, chancellors, and other top chancery staffers?

  • Did lay people recruit these troubled priests and seminarians?
  • Did lay people bring in the predator priests from Ireland, Mexico, and elsewhere?
  • Did lay people deceive their fellow parishioners, stiff-arm the police, mislead the prosecutors, and seek leniency from judges in cases of child molesting clerics?
  • Did lay people deliberately hire Catholic ‘therapists’ and send sex offenders to Catholic ‘treatment centers’ where they would often be deemed ‘safe’ to return to ministry?

Here we are, almost in 2024, almost 40 years after the first US predator priest, Fr. Gilbert Gauthe of Louisiana, generated national headlines, and the head of a large diocese essentially believes (or at least publicly says) that the real wrongdoers are individuals priests, a few deacons and lay people? Such a stance conveniently overlooks the church’s organizational failure to prevent these abuses and hold people accountable. His claim is not just deceptive, but it’s an affront to reason and justice.

Exposing the Deception: The Case of Fr. Jose Antonio Pinal

Consider the case of Fr. Jose Antonio Pinal  (a.k.a. Costellano Jose Pinal, a.k.a. Antonio Pinal). In 1989, he was accused twice of sodomizing a 14-year-old boy. Pinal fled back to Mexico, and someone helped him find a ministry position there. They advised him to stay there for five or six years before returning to the US. According to, Pinal ‘made admissions’ in a 1991 letter and asked whether he would face criminal prosecution if he returned to the states,”  It’s inconceivable to suggest that lay people – ordinary parishioners – would have had the capability or even the intention to shelter such a man from justice. These ‘evil acts’ (to use Soto’s phrase) were done by Sacramento Catholic officials (especially but almost certainly not solely by then-Bishop Francis Quinn), demonstrating that high-ranking Catholic church members, not just ‘individual priests and a few deacons,’ played a pivotal role in perpetuating the issue.

Shifting the Blame

Similar shady events unfolded in the case of Br. Charles A. Onorato. In 1980, he was reported for sexually abusing a boy. He was removed from assignment at Jesuit High School in Carmichael and reassigned to Bellarmine College Prep in San Jose. Who did that? A Catholic janitor? A Catholic teenager? A Catholic school secretary? Of course not. Again, church officials made these decisions, took these risks, and kept these secrets.

In the case of Fr. Jorge Moreno, in 1995. allegations surfaced that he sexually abused a boy. While criminal charges were pending, Fr. Moreno vanished from the US, seemingly escaping justice with ease, only to resurface in his native Mexico. This abrupt exit raises serious questions about the degree of protection and assistance the Church has offered to its alleged offenders.

Is it POSSIBLE that no one in the entire Sacramento diocese knew about his crimes? Sure, conceivably. Is it LIKELY that no one knew? No. It’s statistically improbable that nobody within the diocese knew or suspected anything about his egregious actions. If anyone had that knowledge, the most plausible candidates would be higher-ranking church officials privy to sensitive internal information.

The Misleading Remedy: Prayers for Victims

Soto’s final flourish of deception is his call to the faithful to pray for sexual abuse victims, a noble request but one that sidesteps the real problem: those who currently risk joining their ranks. It’s high time to put as much emphasis on ensuring the safety and innocence of tomorrow’s children as we put on healing today’s scarred adults.

Our plea to Sacramento Catholics is this: help counteract Soto’s misinformation. Highlight the misconduct not just of ‘individual priests and a few deacons’ but also of those who knowingly shielded them from justice. Protect our children and reassure victims by spreading awareness about the new legal options available to them.

Attaining justice for victims and ensuring the safety of future generations requires more than prayers. It begins with calling out deceptive narratives, acknowledging past wrongdoings honestly, and holding accountable those who failed in their moral and spiritual obligations. It is essential that Sacramento Catholics tell everyone they know about the still-living Sacramento child molesting clerics so that kids can be safer. And they should tell everyone they know that adults who were violated as youngsters in Sacramento now have new legal option. Only then can the healing truly begin.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by religious authority figures and other clergy. If you need a lawyer because a member of a religious organization sexually abused you, contact us today at 888-283-9922 or [email protected] to discuss your options today. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse nationwide. We can help.