Human Rights Group Says Bishop Failed to Report Fugitive Sex Suspect Priest

Associated Press
June 29, 2004

The children's rights group Casa Alianza on Tuesday criticized a Costa Rican bishop for failure to report the whereabouts of a priest facing charges of sex abuse.

Bishop Angel Sancasimiro of Ciudad Quesada learned the whereabouts of the fugitive, Rev. Enrique Vasquez, "and did nothing to alert the prosecution," said Rocio Rodriguez, coordinator of Casa Alianza's legal program.

Rodriguez said legal authorities should investigate the actions of the church, and particularly Sancasimiro, who acknowledged that he knew of Vazquez's whereabouts in 2000.

The Dallas Morning News recently reported that Sancasimiro had freed Vasquez to work abroad in the mid-1990s after the man acknowledged he had abused an altar boy.

In 1998, a criminal complaint was filed in Costa Rica by the mother of a boy allegedly abused by the priest and the nation's child welfare agency brought criminal charges.

Sancasimiro told the newspaper that he knew then where the priest was and that he had urged the man to return to face the charges.

The Morning News said the priest worked in New York, South Carolina and Connecticut before going to Honduras.

An international arrest warrant was issued on March 15, 2003 - two days after Vasquez vanished from the village of Guinope in Honduras, where he had been working with the knowledge of Honduran church officials.

Sancasimiro has acknowledged helping pay part of Vasquez's stay at a center for troubled priests in Mexico.

In an interview Tuesday with a radio program, the bishop said he wanted the case solved, but he said he was not sure about the details of the allegations against Vasquez.

"I did not help him flee from justice," the bishop said, "just that he could confront it with a little more dignity."

He said prosecutors had not indicated that he should say if he knew something about Vasquez.

Rodriguez said that was "an argument that is disrespectful and in no way serious about the suffering of the victims."


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