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Runaway Priests
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. James Tully, Edgar Hidalgo, Barry Bossa, Julian Fox, and Joseph Henn. The main article and case studies were also released as a series of four PDFs 1 2 3 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.

Currently

He works in the archives department at the Congregation of the Passion religious order's world headquarters.

History

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 phone.

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 He said the first complaints came in 1993, before he was in charge, but were withdrawn within weeks.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," he said.

 
 

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