Priest Who Spent Time in S.a. Archdiocese Accused of Abuse

By Abe Levy
December 18, 2012

A visiting priest from Mexico — who spent time in the San Antonio archdiocese and is believed to have died in the 1980s — molested four boys in Washington state in the early 1970s, Catholic officials there say.

The Diocese of Yakima reported Monday it had received credible evidence that Father Hilario Ramirez molested four boys ages 7 to 13 while staying with two families from Our Lady of Fatima Parish in east-central Washington.

He was there for several weeks as a visiting priest invited by the relative of one of the victims, who had met him in the Frio County town of Dilley, the Yakima diocese said.

Catholic spokesmen in San Antonio and Yakima said they don't know how long Ramirez was in Dilley or in what capacity. A call seeking comment from St. Joseph's Catholic Church, the only parish there, was not returned Tuesday.

He is believed to have lived in Mexico City, but Monsignor Robert Siler, chief of staff and chancellor for the Yakima diocese, said Catholic officials there have no record of him — the church has no centralized archive in Mexico, Siler said, and Ramirez may be from one of many religious orders there.

Ramirez is thought to have died in a car crash in Mexico in the early 1980s, church officials said.

Two of the four Washington victims still are alive, including one who lives in the San Antonio archdiocese and was the first to contact the Yakima diocese with abuse claims, Siler said.

The Yakima diocese, which has notified law enforcement, is providing counseling to the victims and their families. It's also negotiating about other forms of help, Siler said, declining to say if that meant financial help.

He noted that the priest “has been dead for 30 years and can't defend himself” but said the diocese finds the allegations credible. The Yakima diocese alerted the San Antonio archdiocese, which has no records on Ramirez, archdiocese spokesman Deacon Pat Rodgers said.

Ramirez never was assigned to ministry here, but the archdiocese is notifying the Dilley parish so it can solicit concerns or allegations from the congregation, and the public can contact the archdiocese's office of victim assistance and safe environment if they know of any, Rodgers said.

That office is at 210-734-7786 or 877-700-1888.

“We think he was here for a short time — kind of a pass-through thing,” Rodgers said. “He might have been visiting a friend. We really don't have any hard information on that.”

That the Yakima diocese recognizes four victims and that Ramirez had a record of traveling to minister should raise suspicions, said David Clohessy, director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

“We strongly suspect that he may have molested kids in San Antonio regardless of how long he may have been there,” he said. “It is unusual for a diocesan priest to be sent from one diocese to another. So his very presence in the Yakima area makes us wonder whether the San Antonio archbishop sent him elsewhere because of abuse or misconduct.”



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