Runaway Priests [See a list of articles in the series.]
Hiding in Plain Sight
The Human Toll

By Brendan M. Case
Dallas Morning News
June 21, 2004

Flory Salazar used to be a good Catholic. Then she learned that the Rev. Enrique Vásquez might be sexually abusing her 10-year-old son, Ariel, an altar boy.

She confronted the priest. Father Vásquez admitted the abuse and said it had happened because the boy had no father and craved affection, Ms. Salazar recalled.

She felt as if he were blaming her.

"My son went from being a kid who was sweet, gentle and sensitive to one who was angry, distant, defeated," said Ms. Salazar, 45. "One who was closed in on himself and didn't want any friends."

The priest's bishop, Angel San Casimiro, recently said the charges are probably true.

Back then, though, church officials told her that a good Christian would not file a criminal complaint. "I fell for the manipulation," she said. "I have to acknowledge that."

But Costa Rica's child-welfare agency found out about the abuse and filed a complaint.

Father Vásquez left the country; her son's case stalled. She worried that the boy would commit suicide. Then she landed in intensive care with severe heart arrhythmia. She became depressed and tried to kill herself a few years ago by eating poison.

Neighbors and even some relatives criticized her for denouncing a priest.

"Nobody wanted to listen to my story," she said.

The priest and his family offered her son money several times to withdraw the accusation. But she and her son couldn't withdraw it because they hadn't filed the original complaint. Once, they took the money. "I'm sorry, but it's true," she said. "We've had desperate times."

She no longer considers herself a Catholic.

"You see the pope asking forgiveness for the Holy Inquisition," she said. "But the same thing is happening in the 21st century. The church is destroying the lives of so many children, and the pope won't say anything. And he won't do anything."

She believes only in Christ now, she said. But she yearns to believe in justice, too.

"I don't want another mother to suffer what I've suffered," she said. "And I don't want any other kid to suffer what my son has suffered."


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