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  2 Priests, 1 Former Cleric Leave Jobs Abroad after News Report
Story Disclosed That They Had Sexually Abused Children in U.S.

By Brooks Egerton and Brendan M. Case
The Dallas Morning News [Dallas TX]
April 13, 2005

Three high-profile Catholics have left their jobs abroad since The Dallas Morning News reported recently that they had sexually abused children while serving as priests in the United States.

The Rev. José Luis Urbina fled the U.S. in 1989 after pleading guilty to abuse. The three, who could not be located for comment, are:

•Monsignor Ivan Rovira, who officials say has resigned as rector of a Catholic university in Matamoros, Mexico, and quit celebrating Mass at the cathedral there. In 2002, he had left the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, just across the Rio Grande, after being accused of rape and admitting to church superiors that he had abused a boy.

•Former priest Ron Voss, who was running a charity in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, that helps poor young people there and U.S. Catholic missionaries. He had left Lafayette, Ind., in the 1980s after being accused of abuse and later was removed from the priesthood after telling the Vatican that he had molested many boys.

•The Rev. José Luis Urbina, a pastor in the northwestern Mexico city of Navojoa. He had fled Sacramento, Calif., in 1989 after pleading guilty to abusing a boy but before he could be sentenced.

There was no word Wednesday on whether Mr. Voss and Father Urbina might return to their jobs at some point.

A woman who answered the phone recently at Mr. Voss' Port-au-Prince charity said she was now running it but declined to identify herself or comment further. Father Urbina's Mexican bishop could not be reached for comment.

U.S. bishops said they told their Mexican counterparts years ago that Father Urbina and Monsignor Rovira should not work in ministry because of their history of abuse.

Previously, some Matamoros diocesan representatives told The News that Monsignor Rovira had been falsely accused. The accusations, made by four men who knew him as boys in the 1970s and 1980s, are too old to prosecute.

Father Urbina's boss in Mexico, Ciudad Obregón Bishop Vicente García, has said he thought the case against his priest, too, had expired. But Sacramento church records show that the bishop was told more than a decade ago about Father Urbina's conviction.

After learning that The News had found the priest in active ministry in Mexico, Sacramento Bishop William Weigand sent Bishop García a strongly worded letter. "I respectfully urge Your Excellency, in the interests of the safety of the people of the Diocese of Ciudad Obregón, to remove this man from ministry at once and turn him over to law enforcement authorities in Mexico," it said.

Bishop García has not responded to the letter, a Sacramento spokesman said.

Prosecutors say they are examining whether they can force Father Urbina back to California for sentencing. They had not tried previously, citing lack of information about his whereabouts and poor extradition relations between the United States and Mexico.

Mr. Voss, unlike the priests in Mexico, was beyond the church's control because he'd been defrocked. Yet U.S. Catholic leaders – including some who knew of his past – continued to support his unofficial ministry in Haiti.

Church officials there said they had not been advised of his abuses in Indiana, which never resulted in criminal charges.

Mr. Voss, a friend of Haiti's deposed ex-president, left the strife-torn country after its justice ministry questioned him about a massive jailbreak and learned of his abuse admissions.

 
 

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