PA- Victims challenge Scranton bishop
For immediate release: Tuesday, March 25
For more information: David Clohessy 314 566 9790, [email protected]
Victims challenge Scranton bishop
They want him to disclose records
His predecessor says he warned others about predator
But support group is skeptical and wants “proof” of this
Accused priest is still on the job & has been promoted
Clergy sex abuse victims are challenging Scranton's Catholic bishop to release documents about a priest who allegedly molested Pennsylvania youngsters but has since been promoted and is now second in command at a South American diocese.
Leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, are writing to Bishop Joseph Bambera about Fr. Carlos Urrutigoity who was accused of sexually abusing at least four youngsters in the Scranton diocese. At least two civil suits were filed and one of them was settled for $454,550.
But last week, a Boston-based research group called BishopAccountability.org disclosed that Fr. Urrutigoity is now in the Diocese of Ciudad del Este, Paraguay and is its Vicar General.
“What could be more reckless and callous than quietly sending another credibly accused child molesting Catholic cleric overseas to live and work among unsuspecting families?” said David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP's director. “We strongly suspect that Fr. Urrutigoity would be behind bars now had the Scranton colleagues acted appropriately. Scranton's bishop must take action now to protect kids in Paraguay.”
“Ignoring warnings about predator priests is dreadfully irresponsible but sadly, nothing new,” said, Barbara Dorris, SNAP's outreach director. “It is a dangerous and self-serving practice that puts unsuspecting families and children at great risk.”
SNAP wants Bambera to publicly release any correspondence between current or former Scranton Catholic officials and church officials elsewhere about Fr. Urrutigoity. The group also wants him to use parish websites, church bulletins and pulpit announcements to seek out others who “saw, suspected or suffered Fr. Urrutigoity's crimes” and urge them to call police.
And they want Bambera to write Pope Francis insisting that the priest be defrocked or at least suspended.
A spokesman for Bambera claimed last Friday that “in every instance (the previous Scranton bishop) clearly expressed his reservations concerning Father Urrutigoity” “and cautioned the (Paraguay) bishop to not allow Father Urrutigoity into his diocese.”
SNAP leaders, however, are skeptical of this claim and say that even if it's true, it didn't work so more must be done to safeguard children.
“It matters little what US Catholic officials say privately to other Catholic officials,” said Clohessy. “What really matters is when Catholic officials publicly admit that a predator priest is dangerous, defrock him, and beg victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to call police and prosecutors. Bishops in every place where Fr. Urrutigoity worked should do this now, and demand that the Pope start defrocking him.”
“We hope that Bishop Bambera will step up, show compassion, exercise leadership, and do everything he possibly can to prod those with information or suspicions about Fr. Urrutigoity's crimes to call police, and warn Paraguay church staff and members about this threat to children's safety,” said Clohessy. “And they should go a step further and prod their boss, Pope Francis, who's also from Argentina, to start defrocking Fr. Urrutigoity right now and discipline those who are ignoring and concealing his crimes.”
Attorney Harry T. Coleman of Carbondale, Pennsylvania (570-282-7440, [email protected]) represented at least one of Fr. Urrutigoity's victims. The priest was represented by Sal Cognetti of Scranton. (570-346-0747, [email protected]).
Fr. Urrutigoity's work history and photo are here: http://www.bishop-accountability.org/Argentina/#Urrutigoity
A copy of SNAP's letter, sent today by fax and email, is below.
(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 15,000 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)
March 25, 2014
Bishop Joseph Bambera
Diocese of Scranton
300 Wyoming Ave
Scranton, PA 18503
Dear Bishop Bambera:
We are members of a support group called SNAP (the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests). Our mission is to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded. We are begging you to do this as well, by taking decisive action to safeguard kids, instead of just posturing and promising the way most bishops do.
As you know, a few weeks ago, it was publicly revealed that Fr. Carlos Urrutigoity is now the vicar general of Diocese of Ciudad del Este in Paraguay. Between 2002-2004, Fr. Urrutigoity was accused of sexually abusing at least four boys at St. Gregory's Academy in a town called Moscow in your diocese. At least two civil suits were filed and one of them was settled for around $400,000. Scranton Catholic officials sent Fr. Urrutigoity to a church treatment center which concluded that he “should be removed from active ministry and his (priestly) faculties should be revoked.”
And as you know, Fr. Urrutigoity, like many predator priests before him, is now rising in the church hierarchy and is now in a position to hurt more kids than ever before as second-in-command of a diocese in Paraguay.
On the one hand, The Pocono Record recently reported that “Former Bishop Joseph Martino of the Diocese of Scranton allowed the Rev. Carlos Urrutigoity to transfer to a parish in the South American country of Paraguay after multiple witness statements in several court cases claimed that Urrutigoity routinely slept in bed with and had sex with boys in his care, calling it spiritual guidance.”
On the other hand, you dispute this characterization. On your website, you claim that your predecessor, Bishop Joseph Martino “reported serious concerns about this cleric to appropriate church officials.”
So we have a dangerous, credibly accused child molesting cleric becoming more powerful while you basically claim your diocese has done all it can do to stop this. We respectfully disagree.
As you recall, US bishops have adopted an allegedly binding national abuse policy mandating “openness and transparency” in clergy sex abuse cases.
So leaving this situation unresolved is not good enough. It's a violation of church policy, specifically, the requirement to be “open and transparent.” And three groups deserve more: your flock, Fr. Urrutigoity's victims, and the largely unsuspecting Paraguay families who are now at risk of being hurt by him.
Specifically, we urge you to
–publicly release letters sent by your predecessor or any current or former Scranton Catholic official to any other officials – secular or religious, warning them about Fr. Urrutigoity, and
–write Pope Francis immediately and urge him to defrock – or at least suspend - Fr. Urrutigoity so that kids will be safer.
And in your own diocese, we urge you to
– launch an independent investigation into who, if anyone, in your diocese may have ignored or concealed Fr. Urrutigoity's crimes,
–aggressively reach out – using church bulletins, parish websites and pulpit announcements - to anyone else who may have seen, suspected or suffered Fr. Urrutigoity’s crimes and urge them to call law enforcement, and
–publicly reveal the alleged records showing that Scranton officials warned “the appropriate” church staff about Fr. Urrutigoity.
You claim your predecessor alerted the right people in the church about Fr. Urrutigoity. But we remain skeptical. If you are telling the truth about this, why not release the records and prove us wrong?
It’s irresponsible and selfish for Catholic officials to recruit, educate, ordain, hire, train and protect predator priests, and then do little or nothing when they’re caught and refuse to warn parishioners and the public about them and try to stop them from molesting again. And it's irresponsible and selfish for Catholic officials to write one or two or three letters to colleagues about a dangerous child molester, and then wash their hands of him and pretend to be powerless to do more to stop him.
In short, you should be “shouting from the rooftops” to get Fr. Urrutigoity away from children, no matter where he's living or working and no matter how recklessly and callously some of your peers may be about this child molesting cleric.
We hope you will show real courage and compassion by working hard to prevent future crimes and cover ups by Fr. Urrutigoity and find and help other victims of his who continue to suffer in silence, shame and self-blame.
David Clohessy, Director, SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, (7234 Arsenal Street, St. Louis MO 63143), 314 566 9790 cell ([email protected])
Barbara Dorris, SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, 314 503 0003, [email protected]