Runaway Priests [See a list of articles in the series.]
Hiding in Plain Sight
Friends in High Places

Dallas Morning News
June 21, 2004

The Rev. Enrique Vásquez, a Costa Rican priest charged with child sex abuse, has received help from church leaders in at least four countries. He may also have benefited from law enforcement lapses. Here are key dates in the Catholic priest's saga:


Full name: Enrique Gerardo Vásquez Vargas
Possible alias: Luis Enrique Lizano Vásquez
Date of birth: July 20, 1959

1995 to 1998 - Bishop Angel San Casimiro becomes leader of Costa Rica's Ciudad Quesada Diocese in late 1995 and hears allegations that Father Vásquez is a child molester. The priest admits abuse, the bishop told The Dallas Morning News in a recent interview. He moves Father Vásquez from parish duty to his office, then allows the priest to visit Europe, Africa and the United States as a missionary.

Dec. 3, 1998 - Costa Rica's child-welfare agency files a criminal complaint alleging that Father Vásquez began abusing a young altar boy about four years earlier in the town of Santa Rosa de Pocosol.

Dec. 4, 1998 - Father Vásquez flees to Nicaragua, immigration records show.

Late 1998 or early 1999 - The priest flies to Miami. He had served as a priest there in the early 1990s.

Jan. 18, 1999 - The bishop tells prosecutor Alba Campos that he doesn't know where Father Vásquez is.

"Since he last left Costa Rica, I haven't come to know anything of his whereabouts."

Early 1999 - The priest works at a parish in Manhattan, although New York Archdiocese officials say he did not have permission to do so. They say they received a letter from Bishop San Casimiro saying Father Vásquez was in good standing. The bishop says that was an outdated recommendation.

Later in 1999 - Father Vásquez begins work at a parish in the Archdiocese of Hartford, Conn., which says it also received an endorsement letter from the bishop.

Late August 2002 - Hartford church officials confirm a tip that Father Vásquez is wanted on criminal charges in Costa Rica. They say they tell the FBI, which advises them to not do anything that could alert the priest.

Oct. 10, 2002 - Ms. Campos, the Costa Rican prosecutor, asks Interpol to verify that Father Vásquez is at St. Mary Church in New Britain, Conn. The FBI questions him in the presence of Hartford Auxiliary Bishop Peter Rosazza, according to the church. But the priest is not detained and vanishes that night.

October 2002 - Father Vásquez drives to Casa Alberione, a clergy treatment center near Guadalajara, Mexico. The priest who runs the center says that the Costa Rican bishop and Guadalajara Cardinal Juan Sandoval approved the fugitive's presence there.

Late 2002 and early 2003 - The alleged victim asks that the case be dropped, saying that it's hurting his health and that Father Vásquez is out of the country. Prosecutors keep the case alive but apparently do nothing to follow the priest's trail.

July 2003 - The accuser says that a brother of Father Vásquez tried to bribe him into withdrawing the allegations and that the brother is concealing the priest's whereabouts. The brother will have no comment, his wife now says.

August 2003 - Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez, head of the Archdiocese of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, puts Father Vásquez to work at San Isidro Labrador Church in the remote town of Guinope. A spokesman now says the cardinal is too busy to comment.

Aug. 7, 2003 - Prosecutors tell the accuser they can't seek extradition of Father Vásquez because they no longer know where he is.

Aug. 29, 2003 - The Costa Rican bishop writes prosecutors to say he knows only that the priest went from Connecticut to Guadalajara.

". . . I greatly regret to tell you that I know nothing about Father Enrique. The last I knew was exactly what you told me in your letter. ... A Catholic priest is ordained to serve the universal church, so if he hasn't had his ministerial faculties suspended, he can be taken in by a bishop anywhere . . ."

Feb. 24, 2004 - Casa Alianza, a nonprofit child-protection organization in Costa Rica, begins pushing government officials to locate and extradite Father Vásquez.

March 2004 - A warrant is issued and Interpol begins searching.

March 8, 2004 - Father Vásquez disappears again.


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