On 9/13/2012, Analisis magazine published a report by investigative journalist Daniel Enz revealing Ilarraz’s alleged rape and sexual abuse of at least 50 boys, ages 12-14, from 1984 to 1992. The boys, from devout rural families, attended the minor seminary in the Paraná archdiocese, where Ilarraz was prefect and spiritual director. Each year, he would choose ten boys to molest and reward them with special privileges. In 1992, two victims reported their abuse to Paraná archbishop Estanislao Esteban Karlic (archbishop 1986-2003; president of Argentine bishops' conference 1996-2002). The boys were escorted by the prefect of the major seminary, Juan Alberto Puiggari, now Paraná archbishop. After the victims’ report, Karlic sent Ilarraz to Rome, where he stayed at least a year, finishing his degree in Missiology and writing a paper: Children: New Missionaries for New Times. (Ilarraz had lived with Karlic and been his private driver in the early 1980s.)
In July 1995, Karlic convened an official diocesan inquiry, swearing the victims to secrecy. On 12/18/1996, the Paraná church tribunal issued a decree banning Ilarraz from Paraná and sending him on a one-month spiritual retreat. The archdiocese did not report him to civil authorities or seek to remove him from the priesthood, although some accounts say that Karlic informed the Vatican in July 1995.
In the mid-1990s, Ilarraz returned to Argentina and moved to the Tucuman province. At some point – perhaps 1998-1999 -- he lived in Buenos Aires, where Jorge Bergoglio was vicar general (1993-1998), co-adjutor archbishop (6/3/1997) and archbishop (2/28/1998-3/14/2013). Reportedly, however, Ilarraz did not work in Buenos Aires as a priest.
In 2000, he was assigned to be pastor in a parish in Monteros, Tucuman province (diocese of Concepcion). In 2004, he was excardinated formally from Paraná by then-archbishop Mario Maulión (archbishop 2003-2010) and incardinated to the Concepcion diocese.
In September 2010, eight priests petitioned Maulión to expel Ilarraz from the priesthood and to report him to civil authorities. Maulión reportedly promised to take action but he did nothing and retired two months later, in November 2010.
On 9/7/2012, knowing the publication of Enz’s piece was imminent, Ilarraz abruptly left his parish in Monteros. On 9/14/2012, the day after the Enz report appeared, civil authorities announced a criminal investigation.
Juan Puiggari, Archbishop of Paraná, issued a statement on 9/14/2012 expressing his “deep shame and immense sorrow” for Ilarraz’s offenses but defending the archdiocese's handling of the case, citing “privacy rights,” “due process,” and “our knowledge of existing laws.” Archbishop Bergoglio of Buenos Aires signed on to Puiggari’s statement a few days later: this statement was cited after Bergoglio became pope as evidence of his abhorrence of clergy sex abuse but it appears that he simply attached his name to Puiggari’s statement and did not release a statement of his own.
After the criminal case was opened in September 2012, priests with ties to Karlic or Puiggari reportedly phoned victims to develop a rapport and persuade them not to testify. In the end, seven victims agreed to testify in court.
On 3/13/2013, the day Bergoglio was elected pope, the Paraná criminal appeals court ruled that Cardinal Karlic would not be indicted (a plaintiff attorney had proposed that he be charged with “aggravated concealment”).
On 4/26/2013, Paraná magistrate Alejandro Grippo rejected the defense’s motion to dismiss the case based on “prescription” (statute of limitations). Grippo described Ilarraz’s crimes as serious human rights violations, citing the American Convention on Human Rights doctrine on child protection and Argentina’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The defense appealed to Paraná’s criminal appeals court, which on 8/5/2013 overturned Grippo’s decision and dismissed the case against Ilarraz. The appellate judges ruled that the 20-year period for prosecuting the crimes had lapsed. They rejected the prosecutors’ arguments that Ilarraz’s crimes constituted violations that could be prosecuted under international human rights law.
The lawyer for Cardinal Karlic applauded the decision and defended the prelate’s concealment of the crimes, saying that Ilarraz had committed “a crime of private action. Parents should have made the complaint.”
On 8/8/2013, the prosecutor, Entre Rios Attorney General Jorge Garcia, announced he would appeal the provincial court’s decision.
In late August 2013, more than 20 years after first hearing of Ilarraz's assaults of boys, the Argentine hierarchy appeared to take steps toward removing Ilarraz from the priesthood. An ecclesiastical tribunal was convened, and Puiggari reportedly sent Ilarraz's file to Pope Francis.
• Archdiocese of Paraná Acknowledges Acts of Corruption of Minors Denounced by Análisis Digital, But Doesn’t Explain Why Authorities Weren’t Notified Sooner, Análisis Digital, 9.13.2012 [Translation]; en Español
• El procurador general del STJ ordenó que se inicie una causa judicial por los casos de abuso de menores en el Seminario, Analisis Digital, 9.14.2012
• Statement Released by the Archbishop of Paraná in Response to the Charges, Diario Junio, 9.14.2012 [Translation]; en Español
• Un sacerdote reveló que Ilarraz también fue abusado en el Mariápolis cuando tenía entre 10 y 11 años, Analisis Digital, 9.17.2012
• Argentina archdiocese laments sex abuse allegations against priest, Catholic News Agency, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 9.17.2012
• Los curas que en 2010 denunciaron a Ilarraz por abusos en el Seminario de Paraná, también serán citados a declarar en próximos días, Analisis Digital, 9.18.2012
• Bergoglio Considers the Charges against Father Ilarraz to be “Grave Offenses”, La Gaceta, 9.19.2012 [Translation]; en Español
• En la carta de los curas a Maulión le reclamaron denunciar a Ilarraz en la Justicia y advirtieron sobre “complicidad y encubrimiento”, Analisis Digital, 9.30.2012
• Tras la investigación interna, a Ilarraz se le prohibió “entrar, permanecer o acceder al Arzobispado de Paraná”, Analisis Digital, 10.03.2012
• No hubo sanción canónica a Ilarraz, sólo lo expulsaron, by Ricardo Leguizamón, El Diario, 10.03.2012
• Los privilegios del cura pedófilo, Analisis Digital, 10.10.2012
• La pericia del Vaticano, hecha a medida del cura Justo Ilarraz, unoentrerios.com.ar, 10.14.2012
• Archbishop Puíggari Acknowledges “There May Be 12 or 13” Victims Abused by Father Ilarraz, Análisis Digital, 10.15.2012 [Translation]; en Español
• Causa Ilarraz: buscan que el cardenal Karlic sea imputado por el delito de “comisión por omisión”, Analisis Digital, 12.09.2012
• Lo que intentó ocultar la Iglesia, Analisis Digital, 2.04.2013
• La Cámara del Crimen resolvió que Karlic no será imputado en el caso Ilarraz, Analisis Digital, 3.13.2013
• Pedophilia in the Church: Silence or Condemnation? by Daniel Enz, Revista Noticias, 3.28.2013 [Translation]; en Español
• Ilarraz on Trial: Legal Arguments for Inadmissibility of Statute of Limitations in Paraná Seminary Abuse Case, Análisis Digital, 4.29.2013 [Translation]; en Español
• Causa Ilarraz: la defensa insistió con la prescripción y los querellantes subrayaron la necesidad de seguir investigando, Analisis Digital, 6.13.2013
• La Cámara del Crimen de Paraná consideró que la causa contra el cura abusador Justo Ilarraz está prescripta, Analisis Digital, 8.05.2013
• Causa Ilarraz: “La prescripción no se condice con la evolución de los derechos humanos y protectores de los niños”, cuestionó Jorge García, Analisis Digital, 8.06.2013
• Apelarán el fallo que sobreseyó al cura, Justo José Ilarraz, acusado de violar a 50 niños, Primera Fuente, Tucumán, 8.08.2013
• Entre Ríos: Priest Accused of Abuse Wants to Give His Account, Infojus Noticias, 8.22.2013 [Translation]; en Español
• Reabrió la Iglesia la causa contra el cura Justo Ilarraz, Ricardo Leguizamón, El Diario, 8.24.2013
• The Vatican Requests Investigation into Abuse Allegations against Father Ilarraz, Análisis Digital, 9.4.2013 [Translation]; en Español
• The Vatican’s Magnifying Glass is on Paraná, Página/12, 9.5.2013 [Translation]; en Español
• Court Document: Appeal of Dismissal of Charges against Ilarraz due to Prescription, by Attorney General Jorge Garcia, 9.09.2013