Ouster of Priest Launches Storm

By Blanca M. Quintanilla
Daily News (New York)
September 4, 1997

The Queens Ecuadorian community is up in arms over the ouster of a controversial priest at the center of an international ecclesiastical inquiry.

The Rev. Jorge Patricio Pintado Herrera, 34, is a Catholic priest from Ecuador who said he has celebrated Mass and administered the sacraments in several Queens and Manhattan neighborhoods during the past two years.

But his reputation suffered a blow when his face was splashed across the front page of El Diario-La Prensa, the city's largest Spanish-language tabloid, on Aug. 6.

El Diario's story reported that Pintado Herrera was not properly registered to work in Queens. It also suggested the priest was using the image of the Virgen del Cisne, the patron saint of Loja, Ecuador, to collect money for a charity in Ecuador that had not heard from him or received a penny from him in years.

After the article appeared, the pastor of the Manhattan church in which Pintado Herrera had been assisting asked him to stay away.

Pintado Herrera strongly denied any wrongdoing. He said the allegations are the work of evil forces out to destroy him.

Prompted by a complaint from a man named Theo Rodriguez the primary source for the El Diario story the Queens District Attorney's office conducted an inquiry into the priest's affairs, but found nothing amiss, said Mary De Bourbon, a spokeswoman for District Attorney Richard Brown.

Rodriguez did not return several phone calls for comment.

In the El Diario story, Bishop Hugolino Cerasuolo Stacey of Loja was quoted as calling Pintado Herrera "phony, immoral, liar, and a thief." He has since been besieged with letters from Pintado Herrera supporters here, begging him to explain his views.

Reached in Ecuador yesterday, Bishop Cerasuolo Stacey declined to elaborate. He would say only that he met with the priest's family this past weekend and that the parties agreed not to talk about the subject anymore.

"As far as I am concerned, this chapter is closed," the bishop said.

But officials at the Archdiocese of New York, where Pintado Herrera is registered, are reviewing his file and have contacted church officials in Ecuador.

"We have letters from his superiors in Ibarra, Ecuador, in Latin America," said Msgr. Edward O'Donnell, vice chancellor for priest personnel for the Archdiocese. "Everything seems to be okay . . . he is a priest in good standing with us."

O'Donnell said Pintado Herrera is not assigned to a particular parish, but has spent a lot of time administering to the needs of the faithful at Holy Cross Church on 42d St. in Manhattan. It was the pastor of Holy Cross who ousted Pintado Herrera after the El Diario article appeared.

And Pintado Herrera's superiors in Ecuador are standing by their priest.

"He did nothing wrong. . . . All he was trying to do was help," said the Rev. P. Hernan Pinzon, the priest's Ecuador-based superior. The charges of financial impropriety centered around money the priest has allegedly collected but did not send to the Virgen del Cisne charity in Loja. Pintado Herrera insisted he never solicited money from parishioners and that they donated voluntarily.

Pintado Herrera's superiors now say the money went to a children's charity run by the Congregacion de Religiosos Dominicos los Hermanos de Cristo Sacerdote in Ibarra, which is the priest's religious order.

Meanwhile, Pintado Herrera said he has not performed religious duties since the article appeared and is anxiously awaiting reinstatement.


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