Priest Faulted in Fund-Raising

Associated Press, carried in Houston Chronicle [Dallas TX]
Downloaded May 26, 2003

DALLAS -- After weeks of protests from parishioners, Dallas Catholic Bishop Charles Grahmann revealed that the Rev. Armando Beltran, a popular Frisco priest, was fired for repeatedly violating orders to get permission for fund-raising.

But the priest named to replace him at St. Francis of Assisi was similarly disobedient to Los Angeles church officials, documents obtained by The Dallas Morning News show. They chastised the Rev. Ernesto Villaroya for operating an unauthorized ministry for personal gain and invalidated marriages he performed, The Dallas Morning News reported in its Sunday editions.

This follows widely publicized reports that Villaroya had been accused of raping a nun 20 years ago and had admitted fathering her child. The accuser sued the priest and church leaders last year, but the case was dismissed.

Villaroya declined to comment for The News story.

Grahmann and his aides say Villaroya deserves forgiveness because they believe the sex was consensual, it was a long time ago and he has behaved well ever since.

Last week, the bishop's top aide, Chancellor Mary Edlund, told The News that the priest's more recent problems in the Los Angeles Archdiocese occurred because he "did not understand the protocol of the archdiocese" and were merely an administrative infraction.

After being shown Edlund's written statement, Los Angeles Archdiocese spokesman Tod Tamberg late Friday released three letters that a top archdiocese official sent to Villaroya in the 1990s. Each one asked him to return to his native country, the Philippines.

"It has once again come to my attention that you are ... continuing to perform sacramental liturgies without holding faculties," a 1993 letter stated. "The marriages you perform without benefit of those faculties are rendered invalid, and the harm being done as a result to unsuspecting families ... appears to be great.

"It would seem that you have decided to follow an independent course for your own material gain, without concern for the rights and needs of members of the Catholic Church in Los Angeles."

Meanwhile, Beltran went on nationwide radio last week in Colombia to say that Dallas church leaders had unjustly accused him of fund-raising improprieties.

Edlund then provided a written statement saying that the head pastor in Frisco, the Rev. Leon Duesman, "had spoken to Father Beltran on at least six occasions regarding his fund-raising activities and solicitation of funds from parishioners."


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