Priest apologizes to parishioners

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 Vancouver priest apologized to his parishioners Sunday, but defended asking church members to raise money to fund a clerical society whose charismatic leaders have been described as sexual predators.

 The Vancouver Sun

19 December 2011

By Vancouver Sun

A Vancouver priest apologized to his parishioners Sunday, but defended asking church members to raise money to fund a clerical society whose charismatic leaders have been described as sexual predators.

A Vancouver Sun story Saturday revealed that Vancouver’s Archbishop Michael Miller has ordered Father John Horgan at Saints Peter and Paul Church in Shaughnessy to no longer solicit or accept donations for the Society of St. John (Comunidades Sacerdotales de San Juan) in Paraguay, individual society members or an orphanage in Paraguay.

“I’m sorry for the confusion, hurt or embarrassment this has caused anyone,” Father John Horgan said in a 15-minute explanation following the mid-morning mass at the church on 38th Avenue, just east of Granville Street.

He said he couldn’t answer all questions from the pulpit as it was not appropriate, but he was “ready, willing and able” to talk to anyone privately and answer questions. None of the several hundred parishioners asked a question publicly after Horgan addressed them.

He told the congregation it was “unfortunate” the matter had been brought to the attention of the media. As he had said in an interview for The Sun story, Horgan told his congregation that he had solicited the donations in a spirit of charity and generosity. Horgan had told The Sun it was a lapse of judgment, but omitted that from his explanation to parishioners Sunday.

Horgan noted that Archbishop Miller had been “most kind,” and that he had followed the archbishop’s directions to the letter. Those directions include that Father Eric Ensey, an American priest, is prohibited from celebrating mass or performing any other sacred functions in the diocese.

Ensey, who was part of the Society of St. John, is under investigation by a Vatican-sponsored tribunal over allegations he sexually abused a boy. Ensey had been scheduled to visit Vancouver, and Horgan, over Christmas. That trip now has been cancelled.

Horgan has said he is aware of the Vatican-sponsored proceedings against Ensey and the allegations that Ensey and others in the society sexually abused boys under their spiritual care in Scranton, Penn. He told the congregation he believed Ensey to be innocent, and that he consulted with others who believed him to be innocent.

In 2005, the Pennsylvania diocese paid $452,000 to settle a civil lawsuit alleging sexual misconduct by Ensey and Carlos Urrutigoity, the society’s founder and now monsignor in Paraguay. Ensey was stripped of his ability to act as a priest by Pennsylvania Bishop Joseph Martino the same year.

Donations were collected during a five-year period for the society in Paraguay and also to help individual priests.

Horgan told his parish that “benefactors” – people who donated money to the society – already knew of the allegations, noting there was information on Ensey and the society on the Internet.

Horgan did not provide a full accounting to the parishioners of how much money was collected and donated, but he said in 2011 it was only a couple of thousand dollars. He also said that 2011 charity tax receipts would be issued as usual.

“I know your money was spent well, wisely and faithfully,” he said.

Horgan added that Bishop Rogelio Livieres, who allowed the Society of St. John to be reformed in Paraguay after it was disbanded in Pennsylvania, would be writing a letter of gratitude to the Shaughnessy church.

Horgan said he prayed the members of Saints Peter and Paul Church would continue to be generous with charitable donations.

Horgan also asked the parish to pray for him. “It’s been very difficult for me,” he said.

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