The Vatican’s Magnifying Glass is on Paraná
Pope orders investigation of priest suspected of some 50 abuses

September 5, 2013

[Translated into English by Click below to see original article in Spanish.]

[Photo caption: Justo José Ilarraz, who is charged with abuses that allegedly occurred between 1984 and 1992.]

Justo José Ilarraz, ex-prefect of Seminario Menor de Paraná, had already been investigated internally in a secret investigation.  The case ultimately arrived in a court of law, but the ruling was that the prescription period for the crimes had expired.  Now Bergoglio has ordered that a new investigation be opened.

The Vatican ordered a second internal investigation to examine allegations of pedophilia against the former prefect of Seminario Menor de Paraná, Justo José Ilarraz, accused of sexually abusing at least fifty seminarians -- who at the time were no older than 14 years of age -- between 1984 and 1992. 

The investigation is led by the Judicial Vicar of the Interdiocesan Tribunal of Santa Fe, Alejandro Bovero, who is examining the testimony of one of the victims who already testified before the Court of Justice of Entre Ríos.  Last month, the Criminal Court of Paraná ruled that the prescription period for the charges against Ilarraz had expired.  The plaintiffs took the case to the provincial court, where a public hearing will be convened to debate the appeal.

The denunciations against Ilarraz correspond to the time period [spanning] 1984 to 1992, although they only recently came to light in September 2012, when a 33-year-old seminarian testified before prosecutor Rafael Cotorruelo and gave his account of how, during those years, about fifty children between 12 and 14 years of age were abused by Father Justo José Ilarraz.  The Court of Justice of Entre Ríos officially intervened following the publication of the facts in the Paraná press.

During the judicial investigation, it emerged that in the early '90s rumors had circulated that pointed to Ilarraz [in connection with] then-Archbishop Estanislao Karlic having ordered the diocese to open an investigation [of the priest].  The investigation was led by priest and lawyer Silvio Fariña and the Vicar General of Concordia, Alfonso Frank.

The diocesan case files were never brought to the attention of the higher courts.  Nor was the secular legal system notified.  Ilarraz was sent to the Vatican and later relocated to Tucumán, where he ministered at a parish in the neighborhood of Ñuñorco, in the town of Monteros, until the scandal broke and he vanished like a ghost.

Ilarraz’s defense argued for the application of the statute of limitations.  Acting judge Alejandro Grippo dismissed their petition and proceeded with the investigation, but the Criminal Court of Paraná-Sala Primera overturned Grippo’s judgment and ruled in favor of upholding the statute of limitations.  The prosecution appealed and, in August, the Criminal Court of Paraná-Sala Primera opened the door to the Court of Appeals.  Now, the Criminal Court of the Superior Tribunal of Justice (STJ), formed by Claudia Mizawak, Carlos Chiara Díaz, and Daniel Carubia, will convene a public hearing to debate the appeal.

Meanwhile, the Vatican has ordered its own investigation -- separate from, but concurrent with, the judicial hearing -- to examine the Ilarraz case.  The ecclesiastical proceedings are being led by the Judicial Vicar of the Interdiocesan Tribunal of Santa Fe, Alejandro Bovero, who is examining the testimony of one of the victims who already had testified before the Court of Justice of Entre Ríos, in connection with the alleged abuses.

Bovero confirmed to reporters that, at the request of the Vatican, he initiated the investigation over a month ago, that “it isn’t a trial but only a preliminary investigation,” and that he’ll “deliver the findings to the Vatican.”

Bovero is parish priest at Sagrada Familia Church, in the town of Santo Tomé, and a teacher at Seminario de Santa Fe and at Universidad Católica, also in Santa Fe province.  “The Vatican makes all the decisions, which are then executed by the corresponding bishop.”

This isn’t the first investigation that the Vatican has ordered.  The most recent investigation, specifically, which was ordered by Karlic, was reported, closed, and filed away.  This is precisely the concealment that the plaintiffs and prosecutor Martín Cotorruelo point to in their argument for having the case removed from the Church’s archive.

Cotorruelo filed the appeal, criticizing the Criminal Court of Parana’s haste to close the investigation and uphold the statute of limitations, without taking the time to ascertain the number of abuses and the period of time they covered.

The plaintiffs maintain that the period of prescription for the case cannot expire because the priest violated the human rights of the victims, all of them minors, who didn’t have the opportunity to go to a court of law due to the local church’s concealment of the case.


















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