INTL- Paraguay bishop ousted, SNAP responds
For immediate release: Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014
For perhaps the first time ever, the Vatican has punished a bishop, Bishop Rogelio Livieres Plano of Paraguay, who protected and promoted a credibly accused sex offender cleric. The trouble is no one is sure that's why Ciudad del Este's bishop is being punished.
In a handful of cases, Vatican officials have accepted the resignation of bishops who endangered children, but only when a firestorm of public protest and pressure had raged for months or years.
But ousting a corrupt bishop beats accepting a corrupt bishop's resignation. Still, it's not healthy to leave everyone speculating about the real reasons why the bishop was ousted. Kids are safer when those who risk their safety are quickly, harshly, publicly and clearly punished. That hasn't happened here.
In nearly every case, under nearly any pope and nearly any bishop, whistleblowing clerics get ostracized while complicit clerics get promoted. We've said for decades this must change. But no one should overreact to one apparent case in which a complicit cleric may have been disciplined because he put kids in harm's way.
We are encouraged, but must emphasize that one act involving one bishop does not, in any way, signal dramatic change. Across the globe, hundreds of thousands of Catholic officials – from pastors to prelates – have ignored or concealed clergy sex crimes and many are still ignoring and concealing clergy sex crimes.
First, Catholic officials in Paraguay, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota must aggressively seek out others who saw, suspected or suffered crimes by Fr. Carlos Urrutigoity. Anyone with information about or suspicions about Fr. Urrutigoity must call law enforcement immediately.
Second, bishops should examine their recruitment efforts. Ciudad del Este's bishop had attracted many seminarians. And many bishops brag on how many young men they recruited for the priesthood. But just putting bodies in seminaries, regardless of their emotional and psychological maturity, isn't by itself a real sign of success, especially when it endangers children.
Third, no one should get complacent. One move involving one bishop doesn't herald some magical new era in which we can passively sit back and assume that more irresponsible church officials will be disciplined. That's not likely.
One reason – perhaps the sole reason – Ciudad del Este's bishop has lost his office is because his reckless promotion of Fr. Urrutigoity repeatedly made international headlines. It is clear that the Vatican still moves on abuse only when public exposure of cover ups generates enough public controversy.
So those who care about kids must keep working to shine the light of scrutiny on those who commit and conceal clergy sex crimes.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 25 years and have more than 20,000 members. 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)