Diocese Let Pervy Priest Get Away: DA

By Douglas Montero and Jessie Graham
New York Post
April 6, 2002

An upstate district attorney says the Archdiocese of New York deliberately made it "difficult" for his office to track down an accused pedophile priest who fled to Canada to avoid prosecution.

The explosive charge comes as Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota filed a request to impanel a special grand jury solely to conduct a broad-ranging investigation of the growing priest sex-abuse scandal - the first of its kind in the country.

Sullivan County District Attorney Stephen F. Lungen said yesterday the recent sex scandal rekindled memories of a case from 1991, when the late John Cardinal O'Connor headed the Archdiocese of New York.

The case involved the Rev. Juan Bazalar, who was charged with sodomizing a 14-year-old altar boy in upstate Monticello.

The priest, then 43, fled while on bail.

"It was clear from our point of view that he went back through the archdiocese and left the country," said Lungen. "They didn't give us any idea where he was. Back then we were surprised and upset by the conduct of everyone concerned."

Archdiocese spokesman Joe Zwilling denied the charges, saying, "We cooperated in every way we could with the district attorney and law enforcement."

Lungen said the priest was busted by Canadian cops just as he planned to return to his native Peru. Bazalar was extradited, convicted, and sentenced to 5 to 15 years before an appeals court ordered a retrial.

He was found innocent in 1995 because the prosecution's key witness, another priest, died, Lungen said. Bazalar was unavailable for comment and his upstate lawyer didn't return repeated telephone messages.

Zwilling said he was unaware of Bazalar's whereabouts, except to say the priest isn't working in any of the archdiocese's parishes.

"I hope that the recent disclosures, admissions and acknowledgments by the church will now rectify these problems," Lungen said.

Meanwhile, the Queens priest accused of raping a boy in Massachusetts 20 years ago was transported back to Cambridge to face charges there. The Rev. Romano Ferraro, 67, was turned over to Massachusetts authorities in Queens Criminal Court yesterday.

Also, a Catholic priest in Cleveland shot and killed himself just days after being accused of molesting a girl two decades ago. The Rev. Don A. Rooney, 48, was found slumped over the wheel of his car in a pharmacy parking lot in a Cleveland suburb.


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