Abuse victims group demands diocesan records of priest

By David Falchek
March 26, 2014

A group representing abuse victims demands Bishop Joseph Bambera release documents about an accused former Diocese of Scranton priest who is now second-in-command at a South American diocese.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, SNAP, asked Bishop Bambera to release diocesan documentation concerning Monsignor Carlos Urrutigoity, accused more than a decade ago of abusing children when he worked at the St. Gregory's Academy in Elmhurst, a residential school sponsored by the Society of St. John, a religious order.

"Scranton's bishop must take action now to protect kids in Paraguay," said David Clohessy, director of the Chicago-based SNAP. "I can't think of a case where a priest, after these sorts of accusations, went on to rise through the church hierarchy as this one has."

Monsignor Urrutigoity in February was named the vicar general of the Diócesis de Ciudad del Este in Paraguay. That diocese's bishop, the Rev. Rogelio Livieres, said Monsignor Urrutigoity was never found guilty of a crime and was a victim of a "campaign of defamation … orchestrated by one source."

By releasing documents, Bishop Bambera could provide clear and convincing evidence that Monsignor Urrutigoity is unfit for priesthood or service in the church, Mr. Clohessy said.

In 2002, a former St. Gregory's Academy student filed a federal suit against Monsignor Urrutigoity and the Rev. Eric Ensey, claiming abuse. The Lackawanna County district attorney's office said the statute of limitation had expired, so there were no criminal charges. The diocese and co-defendants in the federal suit settled for a reported $380,000 in 2005. In the wake of the abuse case and the religious order's financial problems, then-Bishop James Martino suppressed the Society of St. John in 2004.

But two years later the group was approved to operate in the Diócesis de Ciudad del Este and Monsignor Urrutigoity began to rise in the church's ranks.

In wake of the attention paid Monsignor Urrutigoity's ascent in Paraguay, the Diocese of Scranton issued a statement, defending the actions of then-Bishop Joseph Martino, noting he took steps to suppress the Society of St. John "and to deal with the priests of the extinguished Society."

Bishop Martino, the diocese said, reported his concerns to Bishop Livieres and the Apostolic Nuncios of Paraguay and the United States."

"In every instance, Bishop Martino clearly expressed his reservations concerning Father Urrutigoity, who was identified as posing a serious threat to young people," the statement said.

SNAP is skeptical.

"Let's assume Bishop Martino did these things and acted as he deemed appropriate - it didn't work," Mr. Clohessy said. "It's not enough for the current bishop to say his predecessor tried and leave it at that."

SNAP also wants Bishop Bambera to ask Pope Francis to defrock or at least suspend Monsignor Urrutigoity.

SNAP routinely demands that dioceses release personnel files of priests accused of abuse. Mr. Clohessy said such requests have not, to his knowledge, prompted any diocese to do so.

Bill Genello, Diocese of Scranton spokesman, said Tuesday that the diocese will have a response after SNAP's letter can be reviewed in its entirety.



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