Diocese Claims Cleric Accused of Abuse Was Approved by Ratzinger
By Jon Stibbs, Isabel de Bertodano
August 8, 2014
A South American diocese at the centre of an investigation by the Vatican has strongly defended its bishop over his handling of abuse allegations concerning his new vicar-general.
A message on the diocesan website of Ciudad del Este, Paraguay’s second largest city, claimed the appointment of Fr Carlos Urrutigoity was approved by the future Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, and that the accusations against the priest were “slander”.
Bishop of Ciudad del Este Rogelio Ricardo Livieres Plano has repeatedly defended Fr Urrutigoity, who was incardinated into the diocese in 2005. The priest was accused of abusing seminarians while working at the United States diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania, between the late 1990s and 2002. He denies the allegations and has not been convicted of any crime.
Last week the diocesan website carried a robust defence of the bishop, stating that in 2005 Fr Urrutigoity, who is originally from Argentina, “came recommended by some cardinals with functions in the Holy See (one of them, elected a few days later Successor of Peter)”.
Last month, Spanish Cardinal Santos Abril y Castello undertook a week-long apostolic investigation into the diocese in response to the abuse allegations. Since then, the Vatican has taken the unusual step of asking Bishop Livieres not to carry out any priestly ordinations in the diocese. The Church has not given an official reason for the instruction.
The Vatican also confirmed that Fr Urrutigoity had been removed from his position as vicar-general on 14 July at the request of the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Eliseo Ariotti “a few days before the visitation, on the grounds of the completion of other duties on his part”.
Earlier this year a statement from the diocese of Scranton said that Bishop Livieres had been warned that the priest posed “a serious threat to young people”, and cautioned him “to not allow Fr Urrutigoity to incardinate into his diocese”.
In 2002 Fr Urrutigoity was accused of abuse by a student known only by the generic pseudonym, “John Doe”, at St Gregory’s Academy, which is now closed. The priest was suspended from ministry and sent for psychological evaluation at a Canadian clinic that specialises in treating clergy. The diocese settled the case with “John Doe” in 2005 for a reported sum of US$400,000 (?237,000).