Archbishop Puíggari Acknowledges “There May Be 12 or 13” Victims Abused by Father Ilarraz
Mounting evidence surrounding the minors abused at Paraná Seminary
October 15, 2012
[Translated into English by BishopAccountability.org. Click below to see original article in Spanish.]
The Archbishop of Paraná, Monsignor Juan Puíggari, acknowledged that “there may be 12 or 13” seminarians who were abused by Father Justo José Ilarraz at the religious establishment in the capital city of Entre Ríos Province. At least two priests revealed this information to Análisis Digital, although those details had originally been omitted from this newspaper’s published reconstruction of the meeting at Centro Mariápolis, which had been called at the 11th hour by Archbishop Puíggari and attended by all priests of the diocese, following the breaking report in Análisis Magazine.
The words reportedly spoken by Paraná’s high-ranking religious leader came as he pieced together the panorama of this high-impact case, which he did in front of about 100 priests of the local diocese. The meeting also confirmed that “only three victims were involved” in the ecclesiastical court case filed by ex-archbishop and current cardinal, Monsignor Estanislao Esteban Karlic, who ultimately never got a legal judgment from the ecclesiastical tribunal of Santa Fe. The priests [who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity] informed this newspaper that they are waiting to be summoned by the justice system to ratify the details revealed at Mariápolis by Puíggari, since they consider the case “of vital importance in light of the severity of the facts.”
Day after day the evidence continues to accumulate. After this newspaper published an article detailing what took place at the meeting at Centro Mariápolis, just one day after the breaking story in Análisis Magazine concerning the cases of abuse of minors at Paraná Seminary by Justo José Ilarraz, yet another revelatory detail has come to light: one of the priests present at the meeting, who no longer works in Paraná, but who has received high praise for past social and religious projects in the neighborhoods of that city, confessed before his fellow priests that both he and Ilarraz, friends at the time, were sexually abused when they were 10 or 11 years old at the same Centro Mariápolis, where they attended school prior to enlisting in the Seminary.
The meeting was urgently convened by Archbishop Puíggari, and seconded by Cardinal Estanislao Esteban Karlic (both of whom are in the spotlight for their passive and negligent roles in the face of the cases of corruption of minors at Seminario Menor in 1993). Both men took their positions at the front of the Mariápolis auditorium, where at least 100 priests were present, having arrived from all over Paraná and the immediate surrounding area, including Diamante, Santa Elena, and La Paz, among other places.
Puíggari led the meeting. The high-ranking religious leader outlined the unfolding of events and the actions that had been taken by him and Karlic in 1993, when there was first knowledge of the incidents directly involving Father Ilarraz in the abuse of numerous minors between 12 and 14 years old. Puíggari and Karlic’s message to the priests, which they concluded to their own apparent satisfaction, was delivered along these lines: the Archbishop of Paraná did what he had to do, in accordance with the laws of the Church , and Father Ilarraz was displaced from the Diocese. Still, Puíggari did not explain why the Church failed to notify authorities, file a denouncement, or push for his [Ilarraz’s] expulsion from the Church. He did, however, warn the assembled priests about “leaking” information to the media, and expressly prohibited any contact with media outlets, adding that “the information published [in Análisis Magazine] had originated right here; that one of the priests in the auditorium was the source who revealed [to the media] what happened.”
Puíggari took his time to try to invalidate what was published by this newspaper. While he pointed out that there were only “three cases” involved in the ecclesiastical court, he also said “there are 12 or 13” ex-seminarians who were abused by the accused priest, who now resides in Tucumán Province. “This is extremely serious, because now that the large number of victims has been revealed, there’s little doubt that the number is actually even higher,” said one of priests, who reasoned that the emotion pervading the meeting may have led to the initial omission of these details, which were later recovered once the priests reviewed their notes. “There are several of us who are waiting to be called to testify and confirm the specific information that was communicated to us by Monsignor Puíggari,” he said.
Shortly after the meeting commenced, the floor was opened to those priests who wished to opine on the matter at hand. A priest from La Paz took his turn and, after him, a priest from a nearby city, who said: “Both Father Justo and I were abused in this very place when we were two young kids.” His words gave way to an almost sepulchral silence in the auditorium. Virtually all those present bowed their heads at his confession, which no one expected to hear, a revelation that came straight from the heart, more than 40 years later. “Poor Justo, who couldn’t do anything with his wounds. I was able to overcome the abuse and follow a righteous path,” said the well-known Paraná priest, who has in recent years performed various roles in the capital of Entre Ríos. He had been ordained one year after Ilarraz, since they were classmates from 1969 until the end of their religious training.
In those years, Mariápolis was an old building housing priests and nuns. It was considered “pre-seminary,” attended by 10- and 11-year-old children. From there students graduated to Seminario Menor. At the time Mariápolis had a director, but relied on Archbishop Adolfo Servando Tortolo, who was at the height of his power and maintained good relations with both General Juan Carlos Onganía, who commanded the armed forces and whose influence extended beyond the military, and Brigadier Ricardo Favre, Governor of Entre Ríos.
The expectation is that Monsignor Puíggari, when he is called to testify, will state for the record the exact information he disclosed to the priests assembled at Mariápolis, a revelation that has caused much commotion, to which Puíggari himself, more than anyone else, can attest.