Hiding in Plain Sight
The Rev. John Baptist "J.B." Ormechea
Rome Case Study #5
Dallas Morning News
September 12, 2004
[See also the main article in this feature, In
the Shadow of the Vatican: Accused Clerics Serving in Rome, Heart of the
Catholic Church, by Reese Dunklin, and the other case studies on Revs.
Fox, and Joseph
Henn. The main article and case studies were also released as a series
of four PDFs 1
4. See earlier
articles in the Runaway Priests series.]
He was sent to Rome last year, a few months after Chicago prosecutors
determined that a legal deadline to charge him in the alleged abuse of
several boys had passed. Civil lawsuits are pending against him.
He works in the archives department at the Congregation of the Passion
religious order's world headquarters.
In 2002, four men told Chicago investigators that Father Ormechea had
kissed and fondled them when they were teenagers in the late 1970s and
early 1980s. One man's father had confronted Father Ormechea years ago,
and the priest wrote a response "asking for forgiveness," according
to records from the Cook County state's attorney office. Civil lawsuits
also allege that the order knew about accusations in the mid-1980s and
let Father Ormechea remain in ministry. Prosecutor Shauna Boliker said
she "could very easily see a chargeable case" based on the four
men's testimony, but she could not prosecute because statutes of limitation
had expired. She shared this information with the Passionists in a late
2002 letter, a few months before Father Ormechea was moved to Rome from
his most recent assignment in the Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky.
The Priest Says
Father Ormechea refused to come out to the order headquarters' reception
area to meet with a reporter and declined to discuss the matter over the
The Passionists Say
The Rev. Michael Higgins, Father Ormechea's American superior, said parishioners
expressed concerns in the mid-1980s that the priest was too close to children
but did not specifically accuse him of abuse. He said the first complaints
came in 1993, before he was in charge, but were withdrawn within weeks.
Father Higgins said the four men's allegations were credible and he moved
Father Ormechea to Rome, with approval from headquarters officials, because
the order had no U.S. facility away from children. "I want him in
a place where it's very clear we're taking all the precautions necessary,"