Predator Priests Shuffled around Globe
By Bradley Brooks and Alessandra Rizzo
April 14, 2010
[This article contains detailed discussions of priests Diaz
and more about Pezzotti.
See also the other
article of this feature, with brief discussions of Aguilar
Rivera | Aguirre Ovalle
| Arregui Erana | Bishop
Cox | Diaz
Jimenez | Galvan
Valdez | Garcia
Groer | Javier
Maramba | Pezzotti
Sanchez | Ramos
Vidal | Woodcock.
See also: Impacto AP: Curas acosadores regados por
todo el mundo, por Bradley Brooks y Alessandra Rizzo, Associated
Press/MSN Latino, 15 de abril de 2010.]
|In this undated photo from Kiremba,
the 2008 newsletter released by the Bresciani missionaries,
Father Mario Pezzotti stands with Kayapo Indian children in
Photo by Bresciani Missionaries.
Rio de Janeiro — There he was, five decades later, the priest who
had raped Joe Callander in Massachusetts. The photo in the Roman
Catholic newsletter showed him with a smile across his wrinkled
face, near-naked Amazon Indian children in his arms and at his feet.
The Rev. Mario Pezzotti was working with children
and supervising other priests in Brazil. It's not an isolated example.
In an investigation spanning 21 countries across six continents,
The Associated Press found 30 cases of priests accused of abuse
who were transferred or moved abroad. Some escaped police investigations.
Many had access to children in another country, and some abused
A priest who admitted to abuse in Los Angeles went to the Philippines,
where U.S. church officials mailed him checks and advised him not
to reveal their source. A priest in Canada was convicted of sexual
abuse and then moved to France, where he was convicted of abuse
again in 2005. Another priest was moved back and forth between Ireland
and England, despite being diagnosed as a pederast, a man who commits
sodomy with boys.
"The pattern is if a priest gets into trouble and it's close
to becoming a scandal or if the law might get involved, they send
them to the missions abroad," said Richard Sipe, a former Benedictine
monk and critic of what he says is a practice of international transfers
of accused and admitted priest child abusers. "Anything to
avoid a scandal."
Church officials say that in some cases, the priests themselves
moved to another country and the new parish might not have been
aware of past allegations. In other cases, church officials said
they did not believe the allegations, or that the priest had served
his time and reformed.
Callander says he was 14 when he was raped three times and abused
on other occasions in 1959 at the now-closed Xaverian Missionary
Faith High School in Holliston, Mass. The Xaverians settled the
case for $175,000 in 1993. At least two other accusations of sexual
abuse were leveled against Pezzotti in the Boston
In the meantime, from 1970 to 2003, Pezzotti was in Brazil, where
he worked with the Kayapo Indians.
In a handwritten note of apology to Callander in January 1993, Pezzotti
said he had cured himself in the jungle.
"I asked to leave Holliston and go to Brazil to change my life
and begin a new life. Upon arrival in Brazil, confiding in God's
mercy, I owned up to the problem," Pezzotti wrote. "With
divine help, I overcame it."
There is no evidence that Pezzotti, now 75, abused children in Brazil,
which has more Catholics than any other nation. Brazilian law enforcement
officials said they were unaware of any complaints about him.
The Rev. Robert Maloney, provincial of the Xaverians who worked
closely on Callander's settlement, said Pezzotti was allowed to
stay in Brazil for another decade and work with children after a
psychological evaluation. He added that a Xaverian investigation
into Pezzotti and his work in Brazil turned up nothing.
After Pezzotti returned to Italy in 2003, "he was constantly
being asked for by Brazil and by the people he worked with,"
In 2008, Pezzotti returned to Brazil. A few months later, Callander
saw the photos of him on the Internet and complained to the church.
The priest was quickly sent back to Italy.
|In a photo from a 2008 newsletter
released by the Bresciani Missionaries, the Rev. Mario Pezzotti
posed with the Kayapo Indian children he worked with in Brazil.
In 1959, he had raped and abused a 14-year-old Massachusetts
youth. (Bresciani Missionaries via Associated Press)
The Xaverian vicar general, Rev. Luigi Menegazzo, said Pezzotti
works at Xaverian headquarters in Parma tending to sick and elderly
priests. Asked if Pezzotti had any contact with children or public
parish work, he said, "Absolutely in no way."
Reached by telephone, Pezzotti said only: "I don't see why
I have to talk about it. Everything was resolved and I don't feel
Father Vijay Vhaskr Godugunuru
was forced to return to India and then was transferred to Italy
after pleading no contest to assaulting a 15-year-old girl while
visiting friends in Bonifay, Fla. He now ministers to a parish in
a medieval town of about 4,000 in Tuscany, where he hears confessions,
celebrates Mass and works with children.
The bishops supervising him said they were aware of the case but
believed he was innocent.
"The evidence that has been given does not support the accusation,"
Monsignor Rodolfo Cetoloni, the bishop of the Montepulciano diocese,
told the AP last week.
Cetoloni said he saw no reason for any restrictions. Godugunuru,
now 40, "enjoys the esteem of everybody," he said.
Godugunuru had been charged with fondling a parishioner in her family's
van on June 23, 2006. The priest, visiting from India's diocese
of Cuddapah, had been allowed to assist at the Blessed Trinity Catholic
Church in Bonifay.
The girl, now 19, told police in a sworn statement that Godugunuru
"fondled her breasts and penetrated her vagina with his fingers."
In his own interview with police, Godugunuru said the girl "had
taken his hand and placed it between her legs." He denied intentionally
The priest was arrested the next month for lewd or lascivious battery
on a minor. He faced up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine
but in exchange for his no contest plea was required to return to
India, undergo counseling, not supervise minors for a year and not
return to the United States.
The girl's mother brought the case to the attention of Pope Benedict
"My family and others have been forced out of our church,"
she wrote in an Aug. 23, 2006, e-mail obtained by the AP. "Just
when our faith and our faith in our church were tested most, our
Priest chose the side of silence. ... To make matters worse, it
was my daughter who was the one being attacked and he just sat back
and watched. ...
"This is the biggest problem my family has ever dealt with,"
she continued. "Please Father, help us. Remember us in your
prayers, especially for the speedy healing of my daughter."
The e-mail also said she had contacted the bishop of Cuddapah, the
Most Rev. Doraboina Moses Prakasam, and asked if there had been
any past accusations of sexual improprieties against Godugunuru.
"I have not heard back from him and I don't expect to,"
The pope never answered.
Prakasam told the AP he was under the impression that Godugunuru
had been absolved of the charges.
"What I was told by the people looking after that case was
that he was cleared and ... he was allowed to come back to India,"
He said he told the Italian bishop of the case when Godugunuru moved
The priest of San Lorenzo parish told the AP by phone last week
that Godugunuru works as his deputy. He refused further comment,
except to say that Godugunuru "does what all deputy parish
priests do" and "helps the parish priest."
Godugunuru declined to be interviewed by the AP.
Clodoveo Piazza is an Italian
Jesuit who ran a homeless shelter for street children and worked
in Brazil for 30 years. In 2005, he was awarded $600,000 from Brazil's
national development bank to set up four facilities in the northeastern
city of Salvador.
Last August, prosecutors said at least eight boys and young men
had come forward to say either that they were abused by Piazza or
that he allowed visiting foreigners to sexually abuse boys. Brazilian
police are seeking his arrest.
Piazza now works in Mozambique, according to the Catholic nonprofit
Organizzazione di Aiuto Fraterno, and the church has come to his
"The Italian Jesuits express their solidarity with the brother
and father Piazza," reads one note on the religious order's
Web site. The nonprofit adds that "the slander against missionaries
is becoming an increasingly popular game."
Brazilian prosecutors say Piazza, a naturalized Brazilian, has refused
to respond to the charges of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation
Interviewed in Maputo, Mozambique, this week, Piazza said the charges
were false and part of a campaign to blackmail him by "political
circles" in Brazil that he did not identify. He said he had
been acquitted of the charges twice in Brazil, and that there is
no evidence against him.
A spokeswoman with Bahia state's Public Ministry said there were
no records of Piazza ever being tried or acquitted and that the
case against him is still open. She spoke on condition of anonymity,
in keeping with department policy.
"This is propaganda in order to earn money," Piazza told
the AP, saying people in Brazil had asked him for money, which he
could not pay.
He said he has been living in a Jesuit residence in Maputo for about
seven months. He said he was working with Italy's Turino University
on "economic projects" and was not working with children.
Joseph Skelton was a 26-year-old
student at St. John Provincial Seminary in Detroit, Mich., in 1988
when he was convicted of sexual misconduct with a 15-year-old boy.
He was given three years' probation and dismissed from his seminary.
Two decades later, he lives in the Philippines, where he was ordained
a priest and now serves as parochial vicar of the St. Vincent Ferrer
parish in the remote town of Calape, according to the diocese directory.
He is also a popular gospel singer in the heavily Catholic country.
Reached on his cell phone, Skelton declined comment.
He finished his seminary studies in Manila, the capital, and was
ordained in 2001 in the diocese of Tagbilaran in Bohol province.
The bishop who ordained Skelton said he wouldn't have made him a
priest if he had known about the criminal conviction.
"I ordained him because, while there was some talk about his
effeminate ways, there was no case against him," Bishop Leopoldo
S. Tumulak said.
Tumulak, who has since stepped down, said it would be up to his
successor to reopen the case.
"The priest is trying to live well," Tumulak said. "If
he has really changed, the heart of the church is compassionate
— although in America, Europe, they have different ways of looking
at it. Not the church, but the government, the people. In the Philippines,
it's a little bit different."
The archdiocese of Detroit, after learning Skelton had been ordained,
sent a letter about his conviction to the Tagbilaran diocese in
early 2003. Tumulak, the former bishop, said he doesn't remember
if he received the letter, and in any case it would have been too
Informed of the case, current Bishop Leonardo Medroso said he would
investigate. But he added:
"The case has been judged already. He was convicted and that
means to say he has served already the conviction. So what obstacle
can there be if he has already served his punishment or penalty?"
The Rev. Enrique Diaz Jimenez
of Colombia was punished three times in three different countries.
He pleaded guilty to sexually abusing three boys while a priest
at St. Leo's Church and Our Lady of Sorrows Church in New York in
the mid-1980s, and was sentenced in April 1991 to five years' probation
and four months of an "intermittent sentence."
He was deported and resumed work as a priest in Venezuela, where
he was suspended from the priesthood in 1996 for 20 years after
18 boys accused him of molesting them.
Monsignor Francisco de Guruceaga, the bishop who hired Diaz in
Venezuela, said it was not clear to him when the priest arrived
that he had been charged with abusing children. De Guruceaga said
Diaz told him he had problems with relationships with women, not
Diaz returned to Colombia in 1996 and again found work as a priest.
Colombian prosecutors say Diaz was charged in 2001 with molesting
one more boy and pleaded guilty later that year.
Transferring abusive priests was called "the
geographical cure," according to Terry Carter, a New Zealand
victim. Carter won $32,000 in compensation from the Society of Mary,
which oversees the Catholic boarding school outside Wellington where
he was abused by the Rev. Allan Woodcock.
Woodcock molested at least 11 boys at four church facilities in
New Zealand before being sent by the church to Ireland. He was extradited
to New Zealand in 2004, pleaded guilty to 21 sexual abuse charges
involving 11 victims and was sentenced to seven years in jail. He
was paroled in September 2009.
"They whipped him out of the country to Ireland," Carter
said. "They took him out of New Zealand after years of offending
in different locations."
Society of Mary spokeswoman Lyndsay Freer told the AP that some
families of Woodcock's victims asked that he be sent offshore.
"He was sent to Ireland for intensive psychotherapy. He had
no permission to exercise his ministry or to be involved with youth,"
Woodcock was suspended from his ministry in the New Zealand branch
of the Society of Mary in 1987, according to Freer. He was removed
from the priesthood in 2001, she said.
Freer noted that even 20 years ago, it was accepted belief that
"pedophilia could be cured," often with intensive psychotherapy.
"Pedophilia is now seen as recidivist," she said.
Woodcock is believed to be living in New Zealand's North Island
coastal city of Wanganui. A woman who gave her name as Catherine
Woodcock and described herself as "a relative" said she
didn't think he would want to make any comment to the media. Asked
why, she replied: "It is not appropriate at this stage."
Back in Windsor, Vermont, Callander lives
a quiet life with Sandi, his wife of 35 years. It was only last
week that he told his siblings about the abuse.
Callander says he is coming forward now because the Xaverians failed
to keep their promise that Pezzotti would not be
around children. He wants the church to change by defrocking or
isolating priests who admit abuse so they cannot work in the same
positions again — anywhere in the world.
"All I want is for the church to do what is right for once,"
Callander said. "To end the facade that a man like that should
have the right to call himself a Catholic priest."
Rizzo reported from Rome. Also contributing to this story were
AP writers Daniel Woolls in Spain, Fran d'Emilio and Nicole Winfield
in Italy, Angela Charlton in France, Bob Barr in Ireland, Eliane
Engeler in Switzerland, Veronika Oleksyn in Austria, Matt Sedensky
in Miami, Gillian Flaccus and Raquel Dillon in Los Angeles, David
Runk in Detroit, Sean Farrell in Montreal, Rob Gillies in Toronto,
Bill Kaczor in Tallahassee, Fla., Pat Condon in Minneapolis, Emanuel
Camillo in Mozambique, Alan Clendenning in Brazil, Ian James in
Venezuela, Olga Rodriguez in Mexico, Vivian Sequera and Libardo
Cardona in Colombia, Michael Warren in Argentina, Eva Vergara, Federico
Quilodran and Brad Haynes in Chile, Ravi Nessman in India, Hrvoje
Hranjski and Teresa Cerojano in the Phillippines, and Ray Lilley
in New Zealand.