The Vatican is sending a cardinal and a bishop to Paraguay to investigate activities of a priest previously accused of sex abuse while residing in the Diocese of Scranton, according to a report in the Washington Post.
The Post reported that Monsignor Eliseo Ariotti, the papal nuncio, or pope’s ambassador, in Paraguay confirmed the team will visit the Diocese of Ciudad del Este in late July.
The team “will likely look into the activities of the Rev. Carlos Urrutigoity, an Argentinian-born priest accused of sexually molesting minors when he served as a priest in Scranton more than a decade ago,” the Post story contends, though the sentence simplifies Urrutigoity’s saga here.
Urrutigoity was one of the founding members of the “Society of St. John” set up in Pike County, part of the Diocese of Scranton. While the diocese sanctioned his request to set up the conservative Catholic enclave, he and co-founder Eric Ensey were not, strictly speaking, diocesan priests.
Urrutigoity and Ensey were initially two unnamed priests accused of sexual misconduct with boys in 2002. Then-Bishop James Timlin revoked their rights to publicly practice as priests in any capacity, and had them evaluated at a facility in Canada.
Reports made public during a lawsuit by one of the victims showed that the facility recommended both be barred from public practice as priests. In 2004, Timlin’s successor, Bishop Joseph Martino, “suppressed” the society, essentially withdrawing permission to operate within the diocese.
In announcing the suppression, Martino cited four factors, including the allegations of sexual misconduct and financial problems. The diocese eventually settled the civil suit for a total of $454,500.
But the society, and Urrutigoity, seemed to find a new home in Paraguay, and in March news came that Urrutigoity was elevated to the second highest position in his new South American diocese.
That news prompted the watchdog group, Bishopaccountability.org, to accuse the Diocese of Scranton of allowing Urrutigoity to “transfer” to Ciudad del Este Diocese.
The Diocese of Scranton issued a statement insisting Martino and his successor, Bishop Joseph Bambera, did everything they could under the rules of Roman Catholic hierarchy.
“The diocese reported its serious concerns about this cleric to appropriate church officials, including Bishop Rogelio Livieres, Bishop of the Diocese of Ciudad del Este, Paraguay; the Apostolic Nuncio to Paraguay; and the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States,” the statement said.
““The Diocese of Scranton continues to reiterate its efforts in this particular matter,” the statement said, “despite what appears to be a lack of reciprocity in this particular case.”