Father Horgan's "Lapses of Judgment"

By Daphne Bramham
Vancouver Sun
December 17, 2011

Leader of Shaughnessy congregation allowed a U.S. priest under investigation into the church

Troubling questions have been raised about a Vancouver priest and his five-year fundraising efforts for a clerical society whose charismatic leaders have been described as sexual predators.

Parishioners are also asking why Father John Horgan of Saints Peter and Paul Church in Shaughnessy allowed into their church and solicited tax-deductible donations for an American priest who could be defrocked pending the outcome of an investigation by a Vatican-sponsored tribunal into allegations that he sexually abused a boy.

Because of those concerns, Vancouver's Archbishop Michael Miller has ordered Horgan to no longer solicit or accept donations for the Society of St. John (a.k.a. Comunidades Sacerdotales de San Juan) in Paraguay, individual society members or an orphanage in Paraguay.

The Vancouver archdiocese has also notified priests that Father Eric Ensey - the American priest under investigation - is prohibited from celebrating mass or performing any other sacred functions in the archdiocese. Ensey had been scheduled to visit Vancouver and Horgan over Christmas. That trip has now been cancelled.

"Obviously now in light of all this publicity, yes, I think I have had lapses of judgment," Horgan said in an hour-long interview with The Sun.

Even though Horgan says he was fully aware of the Vaticansponsored proceeding against Ensey and the allegations that Ensey and others in the society sexually abused boys under their spiritual care, Horgan didn't tell parishioners any of that.

"I told them [Ensey] was a student priest. I did not go into all the details because in this case, I thought the charity we were doing for him was sufficient. That may well have been a mistake of prudence on my part."

Horgan now thinks he was wrong to have invited Ensey to visit him several times in Vancouver, including in May when Ensey took part in the mass of thanksgiving marking Horgan's 25 years as a priest.

Horgan said his judgment was also off when he took the cassock-clad Ensey on a European pilgrimage in September and, during that trip, attended a mass led by Ensey.

"I saw a man who has always maintained his innocence. I consulted others who believed him to be innocent and would eventually be proven innocent," Horgan said. "Everything said to me that this man is truthful, honest and innocent."

But he didn't consult anyone in the diocese of Scranton, Penn., where Ensey remains on the roll of priests.

Its bishop has restricted Ensey from presenting himself publicly as a priest, celebrating mass, administering the sacraments and wearing clerical attire, according to Bill Gennello, the diocese's communications director.

The diocese paid $452,000 in 2005 to settle a civil lawsuit alleging sexual misconduct by both Ensey and Carlos Urrutigoity, the Society of St. John's founder and now monsignor in Paraguay. It settled days after a judge ruled that psychiatric evaluations of the priests would be admissible in court.

The diocese is still on the hook for a $2.6-million debt that the society ran up under Ensey and Urrutigoity.

On Friday, a Pennsylvania judge set a trial date for a civil lawsuit against the diocese and the society that alleges the society knowingly and negligently misrepresented itself in fundraising and failed to provide a proper accounting of the money that was raised to build a liberal arts college and a "City of God" - a medievaltype village where priests and laypeople dedicated their lives and assets to the church, which never materialized

Instead of asking questions in Pennsylvania, Horgan relied on a 2008 statement by Bishop Rogelio Livieres in Paraguay, who accepted Urrutigoity and other society members into the diocese and allowed them to reconstitute the society there.

In that statement, Livieres said Urrutigoity and Ensey had never been criminally investigated and they and the society had been exonerated of all allegations against them.

Horgan insisted during the interview with The Sun that there had never been a criminal investigation.

However, the complainants' lawyer (in both the civil cases) said a criminal investigation into allegations of sexual abuse of a minor began in early 2002.

James Bendell said it was abandoned because of Pennsylvania's statute of limitations, which requires charges be laid within two years of the crime. Time had run out for the young man known as John Doe.

Horgan said he didn't know anything about Pennsylvania having a statute of limitations and insisted that in settling out of court, Ensey and Urrutigoity were innocent.

But Bendell denied that. "Whenever there's a settlement, defendants have the plaintiffs sign a release that says the defendants did not admit to any wrongdoing. It doesn't mean that the events didn't happen. My client did not and would not say that."

Horgan maintains his lapses in judgment resulted from a desire to be a Good Samaritan to priests in difficult situations. But he said he'll accept any discipline Vancouver's archbishop feels appropriate.

Archbishop Miller was not available for an interview. But he did respond by email to the question of whether Horgan would be disciplined for supporting a priest and an organization that have attracted disturbing allegations of sexually abusing boys and young men.

"I would simply say that the matter, while it might have been handled better, isn't in the same category as clerical misconduct," Miller wrote.

He did not respond to a request to define clerical misconduct.

Despite the steps taken to staunch the flow of donations, it falls short of what the whistle-blowing parishioners, Charlene and Peter Andersen, want.

"[Horgan] should be ousted immediately from any sources of money that he can give to these priests," Charlene said in an interview. "He consciously, knowingly, funded for five years a society and an individual deeply mired in scandal."

She and her husband also believe Horgan put children in the parish at risk by having Ensey as his guest in Vancouver.

They want Archbishop Miller to ensure no further visits take place and that no members of the Society of St. John be allowed in the archdiocese. They also would like the Vatican to shut down the Society of St. John.


Charlene met Ensey with Horgan on the September pilgrimage.

"I thought he was such a special priest, a saintly man with such energy and he was such a good conversationalist," she said.

The young priest in his cassock impressed her so much that when he told her he was going to be visiting Horgan over Christmas, Charlene invited him to dinner at her home. Ensey told her he was eager to meet the Andersens' teenage son and daughter.

Charlene told her husband about the amazing priest and Peter googled Ensey's name. They were shocked by what they found in sworn affidavits, depositions, news stories and blogs.

Most of all, Charlene was horrified that she'd invited a suspected pedophile - a man she'd met because of a trusted priest - into her home.

"For two weeks, I walked around in a daze," says Charlene. "I cried myself to sleep. I didn't want to believe any of it."

Peter also was shattered. The Andersens believe Peter would have died in 2009 of flesh-eating disease had Horgan not brought a relic from an Irish monk to Peter's bedside.

The Andersens compiled a file of the most important material, then debated what to do.

"I recognized what it would do to our lives if we spoke out," said Charlene. "It was with great reluctance and profound sadness that we decided to come forward."

The Andersens gave the file to Horgan, the archbishop and some friends.

On Nov. 9 - the same day the Vancouver archdiocese advised that Ensey was not welcome in any churches or chapels - Charlene had a fourhour meeting with Horgan, hoping he would provide a reasonable explanation for why he was risking his own reputation and possibly endangering families in his parish by associating with disgraced priests.

Horgan's answers didn't satisfy her. On Nov. 24, the Andersens had a 90-minute meeting with the archbishop. They asked him what he planned to do.

Miller said only that he would ensure that throughout December, Horgan would make announcements at church and in the bulletin that no further donations would be made to the priests or the society.

The first announcement gave no indication of why the decision was made. Horgan said he is doing that in private meetings with donors.

Horgan supports the archbishop's decision to stop the funding. But he regrets it.

"Because of the attention that's been brought to these old charges - charges that as I understand from the bishop in South America are over with and finished - we have had to withdraw our support for a community of seminarians in Paraguay and their works in Ciudad del Este and that is very sad."

Peter Andersen doesn't buy it.

"This all stems from priestly, clerical arrogance. They will protect priests above all else."


The seeds for Father John Horgan's association with the Society of St. John were sowed when he arrived in Vancouver in the 1980s and was befriended by Dominic Carey's parents. Carey is currently the rector of the society's seminary in Paraguay.

In the 1990s, Carey went to St. Pius X seminary in Winona, Minn. where he met Eric Ensey, another seminarian, and came under the spell of a charismatic teacher named Carlos Urrutigoity.

Urrutigoity was expelled from the seminary in 1997 for attempting to found a new religious order. The seminary's rector later wrote to Scranton's bishop to say there had also been a credible allegation that Urrutigoity had sexually assaulted a seminarian. (That seminarian's affidavit outlining the abuse was filed in the John Doe case in Scranton.)

Carey and Ensey moved to Pennsylvania with Urrutigoity. In 1998, Carey was ordained by Bishop James Timlin, who also sanctioned the Society of St. John as a clerical association with Urrutigoity as its superior general and Carey as chief fundraiser.

Six years later, Timlin's successor - Bishop Joseph Martino - "suppressed" or disbanded the society.

Even though the society and its members were responsible to Martino, Carey and the others refused to meet with him or provide him with financial statements for the $6 million Carey had raised and the $8.6 million the society had spent.

Among the society's invoices were bills for a $26,480 dining table, a $15,000 mirror, a $9,800 executive desk, three $6,000 rugs, a $6,828 bar, a $4,900 armoire and a $2,900 cocktail table.

With the society disbanded, Carey and two seminarians - Anthony Myers and Kevin Lieberman - went to Rome to study. (Lieberman is now deputy director of studies at the Society of St. John's Paraguay seminary.)

"They were living in very dire straits," said Horgan, who visited them in 2007 after Carey's parents begged him to help their son. "They were living in a church belfry. So, I said, 'There is a real need that nobody else is going to address.' "

Later - after meeting Urrutigoity and Ensey at the ordination of Lieberman and Myers, and soliciting funds for the society's Paraguayan incarnation - Horgan never bothered to tell parishioners anything about the society's short, troubled history.

In 2003, former society member Richard Munkelt wrote a letter to the bishop that Martino described as "highly credible." In that letter, Munkelt wrote: "It would not be an exaggeration to speak of the SSJ as a homosexual cult centred on its leading light, Fr. Urrutigoity."

Munkelt said that the society and Urrutigoity in particular "cultivate close relationships with young men, utilizing spiritual means, the power of the office of the priesthood and the liturgical treasures of the church to attract their company ... Eventually, I came to realize that there was involved here - as incredible as this may seem - a pedagogy, indeed even a theology of pederasty."


Dozens of affidavits, depositions, letters and documents filed in the Pennsylvania civil suits indicate it was common practice for the society's priests to share beds with each other, with young seminarians and students from a Catholic boys' preparatory school, and to ply them with alcohol, cigars and cigarettes.

But the most damning evidence is found in minutes from the March 21, 2002, meeting of an independent review board that met to consider the allegations against Ensey and Urrutigoity.

The minutes contain summaries of the psychiatric evaluations of the pair done at the diocese's request by the Southdown Institute.

The institute's evaluators "strongly recommended that Eric undergo residential treatment to address severe anxiety and depression" it said was the result of "repressed sexuality." They said, "[Ensey's] sexual attraction is toward adolescent boys, a stage he appears to be locked into."

The committee recommended Ensey "be strictly prohibited from any public ministry of any kind; he should have no contact with any young person. "

For Urrutigoity, the committee said: "In view of the credible allegation from the seminarian [John Doe], [Urrutigoity's] admitted practice of sleeping with boys and young men and the troubling evaluation by the Southdown Institute, Father Carlos Urrutigoity should be removed from active ministry; his faculties should be revoked; he should be asked to live privately."

In 2008, Scranton's Bishop Martino said he believed Urrutigoity only escaped a Vatican-ordered investigation along with Ensey because the Pennsylvania complainant was an adult by the time Ensey passed John Doe on to Urrutigoity for "spiritual direction."

"Much is made ... about the fact that Father Urrutigoity did not commit what is referred to in canon law as a 'delectus,' a crime as we would say in civil law against a young person," Martino said in his 2008 deposition. "That may be the difference between a misdemeanour and a felony ... As far as I'm concerned, [Urrutigoity] always kind of ... escaped under the wire."

Even so, Martino released Urrutigoity from the diocese in 2006, clearing the way for his move to Paraguay. But he wrote a letter warning his Paraguayan counterpart.

Asked at the deposition what he thinks of the priest - and subsequently monsignor - Martino replied: "[Urrutigoity] certainly didn't come across to me as someone who was willing to be chaste, or to be appropriately poor, and I wanted nothing to do with him in my diocese."

None of that information was passed on to Vancouver parishioners because Horgan simply doesn't believe it. And without their generous donations, Carey told them in May, the Society of St. John, its seminary in Paraguay and probably the orphanage would not exist.



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