“Reports: The Vatican fires a priest in Paraguay accused of molesting US seminarians” & related articles

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A church has reportedly dismissed Carlos Urrutigoity, following a recent GlobalPost investigation into accusations that the priest sexually abused young men in Minnesota and Pennsylvania.


28 July 2014  17:31

Paraguay priest prayer 2014 05 28 cropEnlargePriest Carlos Urrutigoity conducts Mass during Easter holy week in Paraguay’s Ciudad del Este. (La Vanguardia/Courtesy)

The Vatican has ordered a church in eastern Paraguay to dismiss a priest accused of sexually abusing young men in the United States, according to Paraguayan press reports.

The Ciudad del Este diocese’s reported firing of Argentine priest Carlos Urrutigoity followed a recent investigative report by GlobalPost into his rise to power in the South American city, despite a string of molestation allegations against him.

The reporting, and local media coverage that followed, unleashed a flood of controversy over the priest’s continued work in the church — which had promoted him to the No. 2 post of vicar general.

According to legal documents reviewed by GlobalPost, seminarians in Minnesota and Pennsylvania made allegations against Urrutigoity that included his touching one young man’s genitals and asking another to insert anal suppositories in front of him. Clergy members from Switzerland to Scranton have issued warnings that the Argentine is “dangerous” and “a serious threat to young people.”

Urrutigoity has denied the allegations and never been criminally charged for them. But US activists have campaigned for him to be punished. That movement has gained fierce voices in Paraguay — and it appears to have gotten an answer from the pope.

Ciudad del Este Bishop Rogelio Livieres said Urrutigoity had been dismissed as vicar general in early July by request of the Vatican’s representative, Apostolic Nuncio Antonio Ariotti, Paraguay’s Vanguardia newspaper reported Saturday.

Last week, in the middle of the Paraguayan storm, Pope Francis sent a delegation there to check up on the Ciudad del Este church, a visit that the city’s bishop said was unrelated to the scandal. Bishop Rogelio Livieres Plano has publicly defended Urrutigoity from what he claims is slanderous persecution.

But Francis’ delegates took action against that bishop, too.


“At the seminary of Ciudad del Este [the bishop] is going to be suspended for a time from ordaining priests or deacons,” Cardinal Santos Abril y Castello told a news conference Saturday, according to Agence France-Presse.

This  story is still developing. Check back for more.

With reporting by Will Carless (@willcarless).


After investigation of diocese in Paraguay, Vatican suspends ordinations


Catholic World News – July 28, 2014

The Vatican has suspended priestly ordinations in the Diocese of Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, according to multiple media reports.

Following an investigation of the diocese led by Cardinal Santos Abril y Castello, ordinations have been suspended until Pope Francis resolves difficulties in the diocese, reports indicate. No public announcement has been made about the reason for the action.

The Vatican ordered an investigation of the diocese following the revelation that a priest who was accused of sexual abuse while serving in the US was serving as vicar general in Ciudad del Este. That report brought to a head tensions between the diocesan leader, Bishop Rogelio Livieres Plano, and other bishops in Paraguay, and complaints from lay activists about alleged irregularities in diocesan affairs.

The accused priest, Father Carlos Urrotigoity—who is identified by the Scranton, Pennsylvania diocese as a “serious threat to young people”—was reportedly removed from his post as vicar general earlier this month, at the request of the apostolic nuncio in Paraguay, Archbishop Eliseo Ariotti. However, Bishop Livieres has defended Father Urrotigoity in the past, saying that thc charges against him are unproven.

Defenders of Bishop Livieres have argued that the complaints against him have been fueled by liberal ideology. They note that Bishop Livieres, a harsh critic of liberation theology and a strong supporter of the traditional liturgy, has led a strong revival of the faith in the Ciudad del Este diocese, pointing to increases in the numbers of priests, church weddings, and baptisms.

Cardinal Abril y Castello arrived in Paraguay to begin his investigation on July 21, and met with Bishop Livieres the next day. The busy schedule of the trip took a toll on the Spanish cardinal, and he was briefly hospitalized after fainting on July 24. But his condition was not deemed serious, and he resumed his duties promptly, finishing his week-long visit. Cardinal Abril y Castello —who is the archpriest of the Roman basilica of St. Mary Major, and was recently appointed by Pope Francis to chair the commission of cardinals supervising the Vatican bank—was joined in the investigation by Bishop Milton Troccoli, the auxiliary bishop of Montevideo, Uruguay.

As he prepared to return to Rome, Cardinal Abril y Castello urged the faithful in Paraguay to respect the Vatican’s decision and await further announcements. Bishop Livieres said that he would obey directives from Rome, while insisting that he is innocent of any wrongdoing.

My Brush with the Sex Abuse Scandal

Perhaps the most destructive event of the past 20 years for the Catholic Church has been the concerted coverup of the sexual abuse of minors, a coverup involving cardinals, archbishops, bishops, pastors, school principles, and others, who neglected their duty to protect those in their care. While norms now exist to remove abusive priests, the Church has made no provision for punishing bishops who covered up crimes and allowed them to continue. Likewise, too many others who colluded in coverups have escaped any consequences for their culpable failure to act. Some of them still hold high positions in Catholic education. This is the story of a coverup that went unpunished.

NBC News recently reported on a disgraced priest, Fr. Carlos Urrutigoity, who founded a religious order, the Society of St. John (SSJ), that was suppressed after charges of the sexual abuse of a teenage boy resulted in a $452,000 settlement. Urrutigoity, a highly educated Argentine aristocrat, took advantage of his order’s access to teens at Catholic boarding school to ply boys with liquor and cigars, to curl up in bed with them as part of “spiritual direction,” and to actually molest one of the boys, according to the victim “John Doe,” who would later file the federal lawsuit. After “Doe” made his accusations, several more victims came forward—seminarians and students who claimed that Urrutigoity had abused them earlier in his career. Having fled the U.S., Urrutigoity is now one of the two highest officials in a diocese in South America, and still surrounded by loyal adolescent followers—to the outrage of local residents, who condemn their bishop for championing this charismatic sociopath who has left behind him a long trail of accusations of homosexual activity spanning two continents.

A beautifully printed fund-raising letter was issued recently on behalf of St. Gregory the Great Academy, a newly refounded school in Scranton, Pennsylvania, which promises to train its students in the Great Books and great ideas of Catholic culture. Activities include Gregorian chant, juggling, extensive sports, and cultural field trips to New York City. The school is endorsed by the abbot of a thriving conservative monastery and by a well-known Catholic bishop.

What do these two sets of facts have in common? St. Gregory the Great Academy is a new incarnation of the very school (St. Gregory’s Academy) that once invited Fr. Urrutigoity to serve as its chaplain. It is led by Howard Clark—one of the top administrators in charge when that priest was reportedly intoxicating and sleeping in bed with underage boys at the school—and staffed by devoted alumni who aided Clark as students and residence assistants during the scandal. Clark’s staffers have a history of defending Urrutigoity’s practice of sleeping in bed or sleeping bags with adolescent boys, allegedly as a means of spiritual “bonding.” Of three students who would give sworn testimony that the priest slept with them, two would defend the practice—and it was those two champions of Urrutigoity whom Clark went on to hire to work for the school by the time the scandal began to unravel.

According to whistleblower Jeffrey Bond—who quit a job teaching for the Society of St. John when he uncovered the scandal—Clark withheld the truth in depositions about the scandal, and was complicit in the coverup of Urrutigoity’s activities, which included a night spent in bed with Clark’s own son. In subsequent years, Clark employed “as dorm fathers and teachers many of the devoted cult followers of Carlos Urrutigoity…young men [who] were intimate acquaintances of Urrutigoity,” as Bond wrote in an open letter warning parents against Clark and St. Gregory’s Academy.

When questioned by a colleague, other dorm fathers defended the heavy, underage drinking that, according to several sworn testimonies, was routine at St. Gregory’s under Clark’s leadership. Two sworn eyewitness depositions reveal that Urrutigoity plied young students with alcohol in Clark’s presence.


St. Gregory’s Returns, with the Same Leaders

There is close continuity of leadership and ethos between the old St. Gregory’s and the new Gregory the Great Academy. Clark is president of the new school, and has hired as headmaster an alumnus whom Bond describes as a “devoted cult follower” of Fr. Urrutigoity. That headmaster signed a petition asserting Urrutigoity’s innocence of all charges. The headmaster’s brother, another alumnus, admitted under oath that he slept with Urrutigoity while a student there, and defended this mode of “spiritual direction.” (This bedmate and defender of Urrutigoity taught at St. Gregory’s until 2012, and continues to visit the school.) During the scandal, both of these brothers helped to create “Friends of the Society of St. John,” a lay group formed up for the sole purpose of defending the innocence Fr. Urrutigoity and another accused member of the society the priest founded.

How do I know all this and why do I care? Because my own college was invaded by acolytes, defenders, and at least one sometime-bed partner of Fr. Carlos Urrutigoity, who were hired as teachers and administrators at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, NH, beginning in 2010. Within a few years, the school’s admissions director, a groundskeeper, and a teacher were all alumni of St. Gregory’s—and the school’s director of student life was the daughter of Howard Clark. Each of these new employees (two of whom were veterans of “Friends of SSJ”) defended Urrutigoity’s innocence either publicly or, according to a TMC faculty member, privately. One of them also defended the routine practice of male teenage students sharing each other’s beds at St. Greg’s, dismissing criticism of it as “American Puritanism.”

I and several other students, and one faculty member, became deeply concerned about the influx of St. Gregory’s alumni. So we slogged through the extensive, heartbreaking court documents, which backed up the assertion of one former SSJ member that Urrutigoity was the ringleader of a “homosexual cult.” The documents also revealed a coverup pursued by Howard Clark and Urrutigoity’s other defenders and enablers who remained on Clark’s staff.

In 2012, when St. Gregory’s Academy was closed by its sponsors, Thomas More College invited the entire school, en masse, to take up residence in the dorms.


Howard Clark, Pedagogue

I had met Howard Clark at a seminar during the summer of 2012. It was hard to look him in the eye, knowing what I knew about his past from my own research. I shook his hand and smiled rigidly, trying not to think of “John Doe” and the other boys whose time at St. Gregory’s Academy seemed to have left them broken and confused. Clark spoke freely and disparagingly of Jeffrey Bond and other whistleblowers—without whom Fr. Carlos Urrutigoity might be molesting students still at St. Gregory’s Academy. I was saddened, but not surprised, when he sought out former students of his, some of whom I was told were still under the legal drinking age, and joined them in getting thoroughly intoxicated. He approached me late one evening to complain that he and his former students had run out of alcohol. I told him there was wine in a nearby cupboard. “Did you want white or red?” I asked. “We don’t give a shit at this point,” he replied, the boys shuffling their feet behind him, waiting for his further supply of alcohol. It was near midnight when I went to bed, and Clark and the boys were still carousing. The next day he complained of a headache at lunch. Not much later, he asked again where he could find a drink.

It was just a few weeks later that I learned that Clark’s school would be moving onto the campus of my own college. Several students and concerned parents, having heard of the merger between St. Gregory’s and TMC, began to contact the college’s president, William Fahey. Why hadn’t he announced the merger himself until days before the semester began? Was he aware of the sordid history of St. Gregory’s Academy? And most importantly, why had he hired young men who were once the personal confidantes (and according to one of their colleagues, were still defenders) of Fr. Urrutigoity to be in charge of recruiting and teaching freshmen?


St. Gregory’s Invades My College

Fahey complained to one student that people were reacting “irrationally.” After all, he had read all of the court documents himself, and “civil and Church authorities [did not find] anything illegal or actionable against the accused priest Fr. Urroitigoity,[sic] after many years of investigation.” He reminded the student of Fr. Urrutigoity’s “standing as a priest, whose faculties are still valid.” In Urrutigoity’s defense, he cited the fact that the priest had been cleared by Fr. Benedict Groeschel—the same friar who referred to Penn State sex abuser Jerry Sandusky as “this poor guy,” and who suggested that priests are frequently the victims of “seductive” teenage boys.

Fahey waffled about Urrutigoity’s guilt. He admitted it in an email to a student at one point, but when a concerned mother later raised the issue of current TMC staff and faculty who had been close with Fr. Urrutigoity and, in one case, defended him in court, Fahey insisted: “[W]ith respect to Fr. Urroitigoity, I cannot say much more than I do not wish to judge when other more competent that I have already done so and Fr. Urroitigoity is still a priest in good standing.”

Citing powerful Church authorities who aided in the coverup, Fahey dismissed the “John Doe” testimony out of hand. “Many of the … accusations rest largely on the testimony of one very troubled boy from the Academy,” he wrote to a parent. “If you sift through the court documents of the central case … what emerges is that that [sic] this accuser had very serious alcohol and substance abuse problems.” What Fahey failed to mention is that Mr. Doe had developed those problems at a school where, according to depositions, priests got teenage boys drunk while administrators such as Howard Clark looked on.

Perhaps it was fitting that at the 2012 commencement exercises at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts (at which I was still a junior), the keynote speaker spent some 25 minutes extolling the wit and wisdom of Bernard Cardinal Law. I wanted nothing to do with St. Gregory’s Academy, so a few weeks later, even though it was my senior year and my decision would cost me thousands in lost financial aid, I transferred out of my college to finish my degree at another college.


Having escaped prosecution in the United States (thanks to Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations) and fled to Paraguay, Father Carlos Urrutigoity has succeeded in keeping up the work he loves the most—providing “spiritual direction” to adolescents. He has also climbed the ladder of ecclesiastical respectability in his diocese, where he now serves as second-in-command with Bishop Rogelio Ricardo Livieres Plano of the Diocese of Ciudad del Este.

Howard Clark and his team wintered for a year at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, and have since found the property and funding needed to refound their school as Gregory the Great Academy in Scranton, Pennsylvania. I wonder if they will bring Fr. Urrutigoity back someday as chaplain.

Stephen Herreid graduated from another Catholic college in 2013, and is now a Fellow of the John Jay Institute in Philadelphia, weekly columnist at Aleteia.org, occasional contributor to Catholicvote.org, The Intercollegiate Review Online, and other publications.

– See more at: http://the-american-catholic.com/author/stephen-herreid/#sthash.fRpd3SpZ.dpuf

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