Clergy Sex Abuse Victims Seek Help from Jackson's Bishop
March 20, 2014
A Catholic priest who allegedly molested several boys is now second-in-command at a diocese in Paraguay. And a victims' group wants Jackson Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, who was once the cleric's supervisor, to reach out to others he has hurt and urge the Pope to intervene and defrock him.
Fr. Carlos Urrutigoity was accused of sexually abusing at least four boys in the Scranton Pennsylvania diocese, where Kopacz was in leadership positions, between 2002-2004. At least two civil suits were filed and one of them was settled for $454,550.
But last week, a Boston-based research group called BishopAccountability.org disclosed that Fr. Urrutigoity is now in the Diocese of Ciudad del Este, Paraguay and is its Vicar General.
Bishop Kopacz was in charge of investigating child abuse allegations in the diocese of Scranton while Fr. Urrutigoity worked there. Kopacz allegedly ignored a warning about Urrutigoity’s inappropriate behavior without even talking to the victim. In 1999, Kopacz and his Scranton church colleagues were warned by Minnesota church officials about allegations that Father Urrutigoity had abused a seminarian, according to a federal lawsuit.
“What could be more reckless and callous than quietly sending another credibly accused child molesting Catholic cleric overseas to live and work among unsuspecting families?” said David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP's director. “We strongly suspect that Fr. Urrutigoity would be behind bars now had Kopacz and his Scranton colleagues acted appropriately.”
“Ignoring warnings about predator priests is dreadfully irresponsible but sadly, nothing new,” said, Barbara Dorris, SNAP's outreach director. “It is a dangerous and self-serving practice that puts unsuspecting families and children at great risk.”
SNAP wants Kopacz and other bishops to “use their vast recourses to seek out others who saw, suspected or suffered Fr. Urrutigoity's crimes to call police so that he might be prosecuted, write and warn Paraguay Catholics about him, and write Pope Francis insisting that he be defrocked,” Dorris said.
A spokesman for Bishop Joseph Bambera, who now heads Scranton diocese, claimed last Friday that “in every instance (the previous Scranton bishop) clearly expressed his reservations concerning Father Urrutigoity” “and cautioned the (Paraguay) bishop to not allow Father Urrutigoity into his diocese.”
SNAP leaders, however, are skeptical of this claim and say it misses the mark.
“Private talks or letters among Catholic officials about predator priests rarely protect kids,” said Clohessy. “Public admissions and outreach by Catholic officials is what protects kids.”
“It matters little what US Catholic officials say privately to other Catholic officials,” said Clohessy. “What really matters is when Catholic officials publicly admit that a predator priest is dangerous and beg victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to call police and prosecutors. Bishops in every place where Fr. Urrutigoity worked should do this now, and insist that the Pope start defrocking him.”
“We hope that Bishop Kopacz will step up, show compassion, exercise leadership, and do everything he possibly can to prod those with information or suspicions about Fr. Urrutigoity's crimes to call police, and warn Paraguay church staff and members about this threat to children's safety,” said Clohessy. “And they should go a step further and prod their boss, Pope Francis, who's also from Argentina, to start defrocking Fr. Urrutigoity right now and discipline those who are ignoring and concealing his crimes.”
Attorney Harry T. Coleman of Carbondale, Pennsylvania (570-282-7440, firstname.lastname@example.org) represented at least one of Fr. Urrutigoity's victims. The priest was represented by Sal Cognetti of Scranton. (570-346-0747, email@example.com).
Fr. Urrutigoity's work history and photo are here: