Diocese, Vatican Working to Defrock Priest Accused of Sexual Abuse

By Jason Brudereck
Reading Eagle
August 31, 2010

The Allentown Diocese is working with the Vatican to defrock a priest accused of sexually abusing a young woman and impregnating her after counseling her at Central Catholic High School.

The process, called laicization, removes a priest from a clerical state, diocesan spokesman Matt Kerr said Tuesday.

A lawsuit on behalf of the now-19-year-old woman's parents was filed last week in Berks County Court seeking more than $300,000 in damages from the Rev. Luis A. Bonilla Margarito, Central Catholic, the Allentown Diocese, Bishop John O. Barres and former Bishop Edward P. Cullen.

The suit was filed by Jay N. Abramowitch, the parents' Wyomissing attorney. The Reading Eagle is withholding the parents' names.

Kerr said he could not guess how long the laicization process will take. In laicization, a group of Vatican officials reviews the situation and makes a recommendation to Pope Benedict XVI.

"Ultimately, the pope must sign off on it," Kerr said.

During the process, Bonilla is still paid a small amount by the diocese, but Kerr said he did not know how much.

Bonilla has the right to appeal, Kerr said.

Bonilla was removed in November as chaplain at Central Catholic and pastor of St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in Reading.

On Monday, District Attorney John T. Adams said no criminal charges will be filed against Bonilla because Reading police determined the woman was 18 when the relationship began.

Bonilla and the woman have an apartment in Norristown. She gave birth two or three months ago.

Any original material on these pages is copyright 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.