Runaway Priests
Hiding in Plain Sight

Accused of molesting children, they hop borders and start anew, often aided by guardian angels their Catholic leaders

Dallas Morning News
June 20, 2004

Catholic priests accused of sexually abusing children are hiding abroad and working in church ministries, The Dallas Morning News has found.

From Latin America to Europe to Asia, these priests have started new lives in unsuspecting communities, often with the help of church officials. They are leading parishes, teaching and continuing to work in settings that bring them into contact with children, despite church claims to the contrary.

The global movement has gone largely unnoticed — even after an abuse scandal swept the U.S. Catholic Church in 2002, forcing bishops to adopt a "zero tolerance" policy and drawing international attention.

Starting this week and continuing in coming months, we report the results of a yearlong investigation that reaches all six occupied continents. Key findings include: Nearly half of the more than 200 cases we identified involve clergy who tried to elude law enforcement. About 30 remain free in one country while facing ongoing criminal inquiries, arrest warrants or convictions in another.

Most runaway priests remain in the church, the world's largest organization, so they should be easier to locate than other fugitives.

Instead, Catholic leaders have used international transfers to thwart justice, a practice that poses far greater challenges to law enforcement than the domestic moves exposed in the 2002 scandal.

Police and prosecutors, however, often fail to take basic steps to catch fugitive priests.

Church discipline, such as the U.S. bishops' new policy, doesn't keep all offenders out of ministry. Dozens of priests who are no longer eligible to work in this country have found sanctuary abroad.

4-part series

[For your convenience, links to specific articles in the series have been added below by]

The Salesians of Don Bosco, one of the church's largest religious orders, for years have used their global reach to move abusive priests from one country to another, keeping them away from police.
- Convicted Sexual Abuser and Fugitive Works with Kids under His Religious Order's Wing [about Rev. Frank Klep], by Reese Dunklin
- The Human Toll [about Rev. Frank Klep], by Reese Dunklin
- A Long Trail of Trouble [about Rev. Carlos Peralta]
- Who Are the Salesians of Don Bosco?
- Rev. Víctor Hugo Carrera, Salesian Case Study #1
- Rev. Horacio Macal, Salesian Case Study #2
- Rev. Juan Manzo, Salesian Case Study #3
- Rev. Enrique Vásquez, Salesian Case Study #4

A prominent candidate to succeed Pope John Paul II recently sheltered a priest who is an admitted child molester.
- Sanctuary: With Priest's Accusers Calling for Justice and Interpol on His Trail, Cleric Vanishes Once More [about Rev. Enrique Vásquez], by Brendan M. Case and Brooks Egerton
- The Human Toll [about Rev. Enrique Vásquez], by Brendan M. Case
- Friends in High Places [about Rev. Enrique Vásquez]

Top Catholic cardinals and the Mexican justice system have helped a priest accused of abusing children.
- Great Escapes: Cleric Slips Out of U.S., Continues to Work in Mexico [about Rev. Nicolás Aguilar], by Brooks Egerton and Brendan M. Case
- The Human Toll [about Rev. Nicolás Aguilar], by Brooks Egerton
- Beating the System [about Rev. Nicolás Aguilar]

Scotland yard couldn't locate a fugitive priest, but The News found him leading a parish in Italy.
- Safe Harbor: Church Aid, Legal Lapses Leave Cleric Free to Roam, Recently to a Parish on the Italian Riviera [about Rev. Yusaf Dominic], by Brooks Egerton and Reese Dunklin
- The Human Toll [about Rev. Yusaf Dominic], by Brooks Egerton
- The Wanderer [about Rev. Yusaf Dominic]
- Salesians Dispute Report That They Moved Suspects in Abuse, by Brendan M. Case

On the Web, Resources

Log on to to read the Dallas Morning News' past coverage of the Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal and view multimedia presentations of this series. [See the Dallas Morning News' links page for the series, including the multimedia presentation.]

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