Entre Ríos: Priest Accused of Abuse Wants to Give His Account
August 22, 2013
[Translated to English by BishopAccountability.org. Click below to see original article in Spanish.]
There are seven complainants.
The Criminal Court of Paraná accepted the prescription request filed by his lawyer. Now the Superior Tribunal of Justice must decide. Meanwhile, his lawyer anticipated that he would want to testify in court and present his own evidence, if the prescription is confirmed.
The priest, Justo José Ilarraz, is indicted on charges of having sexually abused children ages 12 to 14. Today, the seven complainants are over 30 years old. The Criminal Court of Paraná accepted the prescription request filed by the priest’s lawyer, Jorge Muñoz, and now a ruling from the Superior Tribunal of Justice is forthcoming.
In declarations to the press, Muñoz said the priest, who lives in Tucumán, wants to travel to Paraná to voluntarily provide testimony, provided that the statute of limitations is confirmed. According to Muñoz, Ilarraz “wants to give his account, since he has in his possession lots of documented evidence that discredits everything that’s been said against him.”
Muñoz went on: “That’s a strategy his co-defense attorney and I will have to manage. He has the right. He can give a spontaneous presentation, in which he asks to be heard, and explain to the judge the circumstances surrounding the facts he’s being charged with.”
In 1985, Ilarraz became Prefect of Discipline at Seminario Menor, in Paraná. He had about 200 children (first- and second-year students) in his care. Among his responsibilities was night watchman of the building’s interior. He was also the children’s spiritual instructor and mentor, and second-in-command at La Catedral de Nuestra Señora del Rosario, [which is the seat of the] Archdiocese of Paraná.
Lawyer Miltón Urrutia (who was Ilarraz’s student between 1989 and 1993) is the legal representative of the complainants. Urrutia told Infojus Noticias, “When our parents agreed to our enrollment at the Seminary, we thenceforth entered into the Seminary’s care. They educated us on poverty and austerity, but Ilarraz gave privileges to a group of boys: trips to Europe, tickets to soccer matches, gifts. He visited each of them in their beds.”
After abusing the boys, the priest warned them that if they spoke out they would forfeit his friendship. When the boys entered their third year of schooling, they moved to the care of another Prefect of Discipline, Juan Alberto Puíggari, but remained silent on what they had experienced [with Ilarraz].
Puíggari, the Archbishop of Paraná, was one of the leading authorities in the Church’s investigation of the three complaints that were filed in 1995. According to Urrutia, Ilarraz pleaded guilty in the ecclesiastical trial, and got on his knees to beg for mercy. Then-Archbishop Estanislao Karlic authorized that a partial record of the investigation be sent to the Vatican, at the same time that he sanctioned Ilarraz with a three-month transfer to a monastery, a change in archdiocese, and a prohibition of contact with children.
The priest and canon lawyer Silvio Fariña led the diocesan investigation. When his work was done, he recognized the existence of the facts and asked Karlic to have mercy on Ilarraz.
According to Urrutia, the entire process, which passed through the Church’s inner workings, was irregular. “They should have denounced him to the secular legal system, because at the time Ilarraz was a government employee. As a teacher, he earned part of his salary from the Ministry of Education, which made him a government employee.”
Urrutia told Infojus Noticias that for years the seven complainants maintained dialogue with Archbishop Puíggari and Monsignor Karlic, and that the two men assured the complainants that they were taking bureaucratic measures to remove Ilarraz from the ministry.
Twenty years later, it’s known that not a single action was taken in that direction, at the same time that other potential complainants were visited by priests to keep them from talking. “In Paraná the priests have a lot of power,” said Urrutia, and “the Church hierarchy at La Catedral worships the body of Bishop Adolfo Tortolo, who was Jorge Rafael Videla’s confessor.”
The psychological and psychiatric evaluations corroborate the testimonies of the complainants. The case files additionally include letters and photos that Ilarraz sent from Rome. According to Urrutia, several priests who to this day officiate at religious services in the province, were themselves abused.
Examining Magistrate Alejandro Grippo based his judgment on the legal principle known as “best interests of the child,” and held that crimes against the sexual integrity of children could be considered human rights violations. He thus dismissed the prescription request presented by Ilarraz’s defense.
However, the Criminal Court set the “prescription status of the facts” based on when the crime was committed. Urrutia informed Infojus Noticias that, if the Criminal Court’s decision is ratified by the Superior Tribunal, he’ll take the case to the Supreme Court of the Nation, and that he could go as far as the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
Urritia also said that the current archbishop of Paraná ordered the victims to demand justice from Rome. The case files were sent to Pope Francis, and an answer is awaited, one that is different from the response received in Easters past, when they [the victims] were told that the case had exceeded the statute of limitations in the ecclesiastical court, and the Vatican prayed for the souls of the victims.