Priest Is Arraigned in Child Porn Case
By Donna Boynton
Telegram & Gazette
December 25, 2012
|The Rev. Lowe B. Dongor, right, listens to his lawyer, Anthony Salerno, at his arraignment Monday. (T&G Staff/CHRISTINE PETERSON)|
WORCESTER — The former Fitchburg priest who fled to his native Philippines after he was charged with child pornography was arraigned in Worcester Superior Court Monday, weeks after he surrendered to federal authorities.
Rev. Lowe B. Dongor, 36, pleaded not guilty to possession of child pornography and larceny of more than $250 during his arraignment in Worcester Superior Court. The petite priest, dressed all in black, answered a strong “not guilty” after each of the two charges was read by Judge Richard Tucker.
Judge Tucker ordered Rev. Dongor, the Diocese of Worcester’s first Filipino priest, held on $500,000 cash bail or $5 million with surety.
Rev. Dongor was assigned to St. Joseph’s Parish in Fitchburg when child pornography was allegedly found on his computer. When he was being questioned by police, he confessed to stealing between $40 and $60 each week over a period of months from the weekly collection and wiring that money to his family in the Philippines, court documents said.
He was charged with possession of child pornography and larceny of more than $250 in Fitchburg District Court in September 2011 and was released on personal recognizance. At that time he was ordered to have no contact with the church, no contact with children, and no access to computers or the Internet.
Rev. Dongor was placed on administrative leave of absence and relieved of his duties at St. Joseph Parish.
Rev. Dongor failed to show up for an Oct. 25, 2011, court appearance, leaving authorities to believe he had fled to the Philippines. Meanwhile, Bishop Robert J. McManus asked Pope Benedict XVI to defrock Rev. Dongor in light of the pornography charges. The Vatican has yet to respond to the request.
A Worcester Grand Jury indicted Rev. Dongor in March.
Prosecutor Courtney Sans said Rev. Dongor fled in advance of indictments issued by the grand jury and requested such a high bail “to make sure he stays here to face these charges.”
Raymond Delisle, spokesman for the Worcester Diocese, said he did not believe the diocese was providing for Rev. Dongor’s legal counsel. Rev. Dongor qualified for a public defender and was represented by Anthony Salerno yesterday.
Mr. Salerno said the priest turned himself in to the FBI in the Philippines and was arrested Dec. 10 by Los Angeles police. Rev. Dongor turned over all his travel documents to the FBI in Los Angeles when he returned to the U.S. earlier this month.
Judge Tucker ordered that if Rev. Dongor makes bail, he turn all travel documents over to the probation department, have no contact with children under the age of 16, no contact with St. Joseph Parish, and no access to the Internet or a computer device. In addition, he must report once a week to probation and will have to wear a GPS monitor if he makes bail.
Rev. Dongor will be back in Worcester Superior Court Jan. 3.