The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Monday, April 13, 2009
Ex-bishop admits fathering child; Sex abuse victims respond
Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 862 7688 home, 314 503 0003 cell)
We're sad that a powerful bishop apparently took advantage of his position and a parishioner's trust for his sexual desires. We're also sad that a powerful public figure is evidently incapable of reaching an agreement with the mother of his child regarding the care of the youngster.
It may be true, as a few of Mr. Lugo's supporters claim, that some are exposing Lugo's sexual misconduct for political reasons. But what matters most is Lugo's misdeeds, not someone else's motives.
We're grateful that Lugo has admitted paternity, but worry about other vulnerable women he may have exploited while a cleric. We hope that others who may have seen, suspected or suffered misdeeds by Lugo will come forward and get help.
If, as the AP reports, this mother was 16 when Lugo had sex with her, that is child sexual abuse and he should be prosecuted or removed from office. Even if she was legally old enough to 'consent,' it's wrong.
An educated, allegedly holy man who holds the revered title of minister or priest cannot ever have truly consensual and/or healthy sexual contact (whether once or repeatedly) with a congregant. It is always morally wrong and psychologically harmful.
This is especially true regarding Catholicism. Catholics have been raised since birth to believe priests are God's representatives on earth, can forgive our sins, can turn wafers and wine into the body and blood of Christ. Priests always hold an exalted position, and when they have any sexual involvement with parishioners, it is always wrong and hurtful.
But in any religious setting, there is an inherent power imbalance between clergy and church members. It is like a doctor-patient or therapist-client relationship, where any sexual contact is expressly forbidden. And for good reason: because it almost always results in devastation, with individuals and with congregations.
It's the duty of church officials to help congregants understand this. And it’s the duty of lawmakers and law enforcement to both help prevent this egregious and hurtful misconduct and to help those who suffer from it expose predators, get healing and achieve justice.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nation’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We've been around since 1988 and have more than 9,000 members across the country. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, 314-645-5915 home), Peter Isely (414-429-7259) Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688)
Paraguayan bishop-turned-prez admits paternity
By PEDRO SERVIN – 1 hour ago
ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) — Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo admitted Monday he is the father of a child conceived while he was still a Roman Catholic bishop.
Lugo surprised journalists by acknowledging he had an intimate relationship with Viviana Carrillo, the child's mother — just five days after lawyers for Carrillo announced they were filing a paternity suit against him.
"Here and now, before my people and my conscience, I declare with absolute honesty and a sense of duty and transparency in relation to the controversy provoked by the paternity suit, that there was a relationship with Viviana Carrillo," Lugo said.
"I assume all responsibilities ... and recognize the paternity of the child," he added, promising to protect the boy's privacy.
The president said he will not comment further on the matter, but will instead focus on his presidency.
Carrillo did not immediately respond to Lugo's surprise announcement, but her lawyer, Claudio Kostinchok, said he was pleased.
"By recognizing he is the father of the child, he proves us right," Kostinchok said. "We didn't invent anything."
Kostinchok said he didn't know immediately what would happen with the lawsuit. Last week, he said he would withdraw it after Carrillo denied approving it.
But Judge Evelyn Peralta said the law requires the case to continue, even if Carrillo's lawyers withdraw it. Lugo will be notified in three days of the content of the lawsuit, she said.
While Lugo remained silent about the allegations until Monday, his spokesman, Emilio Camacho, said last week that the paternity claim "must be false," and called it a smear campaign by Carrillo's lawyers.
Peter Hakim, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based think tank focused on Latin American relations, said Lugo's paternity concession was a savvy political move.
"Generally speaking, people get more in trouble from lying about what they've done than actually what they've done," Hakim said, citing former U.S. President Richard Nixon's obfuscation during Watergate and former President Bill Clinton's initial denials in the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
Lugo's recognition will steal thunder from the opposition, which could have used his previous denial against him for political gain, Hakim said.
By acknowledging his son, Lugo will be able to move forward and focus on more compelling problems, Hakim said, namely the impact of the global downturn in Paraguay, South America's second-poorest country after neighboring Bolivia.
Lugo, 57, resigned in 2004 as bishop of San Pedro, capital city of San Pedro province, which is the poorest region of the landlocked South American country. Carrillo is from the province.
In December 2006, he announced that he was renouncing the status of bishop itself to run for president. But it was not until July 31 of last year that Pope Benedict XVI gave him unprecedented permission to resign, relieving him of his chastity vows.
The Vatican had insisted during the 2008 presidential campaign that Lugo would always be a bishop under church law.
Kostinchok says the boy was born on May 4, 2007, and that the child is named after Lugo's grandfather, Guillermo Armindo.
Carrillo is now 26, but her intimate relationship with the bishop-turned-president began when she was 16, according to local news media reports.
Msgr. Mario Melanio Medina, bishop from the southern province of Misiones, was the first member of the Paraguayan clergy to react.
"Lugo lied to the Church, but better late than never, as the saying goes," Medina said. "He won't be the only one who lies to the Church, but he recognized his mistake and that is a courageous act" that may serve as an example for others to follow, the bishop added.
Sen. Julio Cesar Velazquez, from the opposition Colorado Party, called on the Catholic Church to excommunicate Lugo for having an intimate relation with an "adolescent" while Lugo was still a bishop.
Political analyst Carlos Martino, meanwhile, said Lugo's acknowledgment of his paternity effectively stopped the growing controversy dead in its tracks.
"Surely he is not the first bishop with a child," Martino said.
Associated Press Writer Jeannette Neumann in Buenos Aires, Argentina, contributed to this report.
President Fernando Lugo of Paraguay confesses to love child
From Times Online - April 13, 2009
The President of Paraguay, a former Catholic bishop, has admitted fathering a child whilst he was a member of the priesthood, after a paternity suit threatened his political standing.
Fernando Lugo went on national television to make the admission, having previously denied claims that he was the father of a two-year-old child. Last week he was reported by local media to have been ready to go to court over the allegations. But today he made the following televised statement.
“I assume all responsibilities having to do with the fact that I had a relationship with [the mother of the child], and I recognise paternity,” Mr Lugo, 57, said.
Viviana Rosalith, the child’s 26-year-old mother, denied claims by lawyers that she had filed a paternity suit against the president last week.
Mr Lugo won the presidency in April last year heading a coalition that ended more than 60 years of one-party rule in the South American country.
Before taking control of the government he served as a Roman Catholic bishop for 10 years in the impoverished region of San Pedro. He quit the cloth in 2006 to launch his political career but was not freed from his bishop status until he became president and the Church reneged.
According to the lawsuit, Mr Lugo and the mother of the child met when he was a bishop in San Pedro and staying at her godmother’s house.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests