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Vatican intervenes to remove a priest in Paraguay accused of sex abuse in US

Pope Francis sent a papal delegation to Paraguay to investigate the activities of the Rev. Carlos Urrutigoity, a priest accused of sex abuse in Pennsylvania.

VATICAN CITY (RNS) The Vatican has ordered a Roman Catholic diocese in eastern Paraguay to remove a priest accused of sex abuse in the U.S. and to restrict the activities of the bishop who hired him.

Pope Francis is sending a papal delegation to Paraguay to investigate the activities of the Rev. Carlos Urrutigoity, a priest accused of sex abuse in Pennsylvania.

Photo courtesy P. Alvarenga, Vanguardia

Pope Francis sent a papal delegation to Paraguay to investigate the activities of the Rev. Carlos Urrutigoity, a priest accused of sex abuse in Pennsylvania.

Pope Francis sent a cardinal and an archbishop to investigate Carlos Urrutigoity in the diocese of Ciudad del Este. The two men visited the country July 21-26.

The removal is the latest demonstration of the pope’s “zero tolerance” of clerical abuse, and it suggests priests suspected of child abuse in one country can no longer find shelter in other countries.

In 2002, Urrutigoity was accused of sexual abuse of minors in a highly publicized lawsuit in the Diocese of Scranton, Pa. He and another priest, Eric Ensey, were suspended by then-Bishop James Timlin amid allegations they had sexually molested students at St. Gregory’s Academy. The diocese reportedly reached a $400,000-plus settlement in the case in 2006.

Urrutigoity, a native of Argentina, was transferred to Canada before settling in Paraguay.

The Vatican’s spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, confirmed Wednesday (July 30) that Urrutigoity had been removed from his position as vicar general, or deputy bishop, of the diocese on July 14.

“He has not been suspended. He has been removed from the position,” Lombardi said.

During his visit to Paraguay, Cardinal Santos Abril y Castello also told Bishop Rogelio Ricardo Livieres Plano not to proceed with any further ordinations of priests in Ciudad del Este, Lombardi said.

The cardinal will report his findings from Paraguay directly to Pope Francis, and Lombardi said it was unclear whether the Vatican would take further action.

Earlier this year, Scranton Bishop Joseph C. Bambera expressed concern about Urrutigoity’s career advancement in Paraguay, saying “warnings regarding this cleric’s suitability for ministry have not been heeded.”

In a message on the diocese website, the bishop went further and urged anyone who has “suspected, witnessed or suffered abuse at the hands of Father Urrutigoity” to report it to authorities.

“Transferring predator priests to different dioceses or countries is dreadfully irresponsible,” said David Clohessy, executive director of the group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “SNAP has been demanding that this dangerous predator be ousted since March.”



About the author

Josephine McKenna

Josephine McKenna has more than 30 years' experience in print, broadcast and interactive media. Based in Rome since 2007, she covered the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and election of Pope Francis and canonizations of their predecessors. Now she covers all things Vatican for RNS.


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  • It would be good administration to leave the removal of priests up to local bishops and an investigating council in their diocese composed of clergy and lay people. One of the most horrendous problems of this abysmal sex scandal is the delay in time that allows bishops acting alone to hide evidence, pay hush money to victims and parents, obstructing justice and sinning horribly while they move corrupt clergy silently about from parish to parish.

    The worst problem of all, and the reason it continues to be dragged out so criminally is that the lay people have no determining say in these sex abuse scandals just as they have no say in other church matters. The church is too big for any effort to manage these details from a central headquarters like the Vatican. And such management should never be the determination of one person, clergy or lay.

    Clergy are not competent to manage the business and physical affairs of a diocese or parish. There would be no problem in the clergy providing the people in the pews with the legal advice of canon law. They would be perfectly competent to understand and function accordingly. The people in the pews must participate fully in all church management in order to prevent the sins and crimes that have been so horrendous, scandalous, and destructive.

    Church history proves this true over and over and over. The people in the pews must get off their seats and off their knees and revolt against this clerical domination that hides all this non-stop corruption. The church belongs to everyone. It is not the property of the clergy. The clergy must be stopped from acting like autocrats. Until clergy start proving by their behavior in all matters that they recognize we are all in this together, that “The People of God” includes the people in the pews, that the church does not belong only to them, the people in the pews must revolt. They must stop assisting the clergy in making a farce of religion and this church

  • See, I notice some errors appeared in my comment. That is exactly why it is important for RNS to correct their blog so that writers can edit their comments, correct errors, when the spell-help and other functions send off those errors.

  • Are you insane? When a person is suspected of raping children, you turn them into the police immediately, and cooperate fully with their investigations. It has absolutely nothing to do with canon law or the laity, or any other artifact of the catholic church. Render unto caesar that which is caesar’s. In this case, what is caesar’s is all evidence related to the crime of child rape.