SNAP is grateful for the conviction of a Catholic priest from Maryland
Fr. Fernando Cristancho, who formerly worked in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, pleaded guilty on Monday to coercion and enticement of a child to engage in illegal sexual activity. Those crimes were committed after his bosses at the Archdiocese removed him from his position at St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Harford County, where he met the victim. Also on Monday the priest admitted that he produced nude images of four other children. We are grateful to the store employee who reported the images on Fr. Cristancho’s phone in 2017, to the brave survivor who was willing to testify in court, and to the police and prosecutors who helped to take this dangerous man off the streets.
According to Bishop Accountability, the Archdiocese of Baltimore fired Fr. Cristancho from St. Ignatius in July of 2002 for fathering three children by in vitro fertilization. The clergyman had been removed from a parish in Arlington, Virginia, in 1997, for the sexual abuse of an adult woman. After the 2002 firing, the cleric continued to hold services in a private home, and the victim continued to assist him as he had at St. Ignatius. It was during this period of time that the boy was sexually abused.
We are disturbed that a man who was bounced from a parish in Virginia in 1997 for sexual abuse ended up working in a parish in Maryland. Still more appalling is the fact that he was so poorly supervised after his firing from a church in Maryland in 2002 that he was able to continue holding masses. (Fr. Cristancho's priestly faculties were apparently not revoked until 2004.) But most appalling is the fact that in 2008 the cleric lost custody of his three children because the court found that he had sexually abused his two sons.We cannot help but wonder how many other lives were endangered by this priest who was so poorly supervised by the Catholic Church and who has been allowed to walk free among us. Fr. Cristancho was ordained in 1985 and worked in Arlington, Virginia, at Good Shepherd parish, studied briefly at Loyola College, and then went on to hold Spanish services at St. Francis De Sales in Abingdon, Maryland, as well as working at St. Ignatius Church.Fr. Cristancho is now facing between 10 and 25 years in prison. Given his history, we hope he is given the longest sentence possible. Abusers never stop abusing and it is clear to us that Fr. Cristancho presents a threat to children and adults wherever he is. We also hope that this story will encourage others who may have seen or suspected crimes by Fr. Cristancho or any others in the Archdiocese of Baltimore to come forward, get help, and start healing.