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Runaway Priests [See a list of articles in the series.]
Hiding in Plain Sight
A Long Trail of Trouble

Dallas Morning News
June 20, 2004

Controversy has followed the Rev. Carlos Peralta almost everywhere he has been, and the Salesians of Don Bosco order has moved him all over the Western Hemisphere. He is wanted for questioning by Chicago police investigating abuse allegations. Order officials in Peru say they don't know where he is. But The Dallas Morning News found him at a Salesian office in Mexico City, across the street from a parish and school that the order runs. He also has been celebrating Mass regularly for a group of nuns. Father Peralta and his Mexican superiors refused to comment.

1980s

While he is studying for the priesthood in Chile, Peru and Guatemala, his superiors make vague complaints about his conduct, such as "he is not watchful at night."


1991

As a school administrator in Peru, he is caught with a boy in his bedroom around midnight. A fellow cleric later reports him to the Rev. Juan Vera, the top Salesian official in Peru.



1995

Several students tell order leaders that Father Peralta has abused them. A church disciplinary board concludes that "unspeakable things have occurred" and that the priest must be kept away from children.




1996

Father Peralta, after being transferred to another school in Peru, allegedly continues his misconduct.




1997

The Salesians send Father Peralta to Domus Mariae, a clergy abuse treatment center in Argentina. "They sent back reports that there was nothing to all this," according to Father Vera, who was the Salesians' Peruvian leader at the time. "They said he had a problem with his father, that his father didn't pay enough attention to him or something."

The center is run by the Rev. Pedro Marano, a Salesian who was recently captured by an Argentine television station's hidden camera describing how a priest can explain why he's there: "He can say it's for health reasons. He's got an ulcer."

Father Marano now tells The News the TV program aimed "to stain the church. It was all twisted."


1998

Father Peralta is transferred to a parish that Salesians staff in Chicago. Father Vera signs an archdiocesan permission-to-work form stating that the priest enjoys a good reputation and has no problem working with minors. He tells The News he vouched for Father Peralta because the treatment center gave him a clean bill of health.

"He has not shown in the past any conduct problem that would indicate that he cannot deal appropriately with minors."

1999

Father Peralta is accused in Chicago of abuse and sent to a treatment center in Virginia, then to a residence for Salesians in New Jersey. A lawsuit is filed alleging that he molested four boys in Chicago. U.S. Salesians say they hadn't been told about his past and, as soon as they became aware of it, barred him from unsupervised access to children. Chicago police start investigating.


2001

Father Peralta begins work in Mexico City.


2002 to present

Chicago police urge Father Peralta's current superior in Peru, the Rev. Santo Dal Ben, to return him for questioning. Father Dal Ben asks - but does not order - the priest to cooperate. Father Peralta stays put. Chicago authorities give conflicting explanations for why they haven't filed charges.

"By this letter I ask you please to cooperate with the United States authorities and to return to Chicago to answer the police request in connection with the accusations that have been raised against you.... I am with you in your suffering."

SOURCES: Church documents obtained by Jeff Anderson & Associates, a Minnesota law firm representing the Chicago plaintiffs; Dallas Morning News research.

 
 

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