Colombian Catholic Tribunal Clears Priest Who Confessed to Abuse

By Mike Ceaser
Catholic News Service
July 26, 2007

Bogota, Colombia – A Colombian Catholic Church tribunal has cleared a priest who confessed to sexually abusing seminarians – including some in the United States – decades ago.

The Ecclesiastical Tribunal of Bogota ruled July 23 that both the church's and the civil court's statutes of limitations had expired, "totally exempting" Father Efrain Rozo Rincon from prosecution. The tribunal also found that Father Rozo deserved a "presumption of innocence."

The tribunal praised Father Rozo for "promoting for almost 50 years a modern and active apostolate with students and youths through sports" and pointed out that "there have not been formal accusations of incorrect behavior in this court."

Last October, Father Rozo confessed on tape to U.S. lawyers representing his nephew, Ernesto Rozo, who sued the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, where some of the alleged abuses occurred. Father Rozo was assigned to Los Angeles and worked at Loyola Marymount University, 1967-69. Father Rozo admitted to abusing a seminary student and his nephew 40 years ago.

In the U.S. civil case, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed to compensate Ernesto Rozo.

The Colombian tribunal's president, Father Dario Alvarez, said Father Rozo told the tribunal that he was manipulated into the videotaped confession and categorically denied that his confessions were truthful.

However, Father Rozo's brother, who was present at the filming session and is Ernesto's father, denied that Father Rozo had been pressured and asserted that the priest was guilty.

After the tribunal's ruling, the alleged victims repeated their accusations.

The accusations against Father Rozo triggered more accusations against other Colombian priests, including one who is now a bishop. All denied the accusations.


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