VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis is sending a cardinal and a bishop to Paraguay to investigate the activities of a priest previously accused of sex abuse in Pennsylvania, the Vatican’s diplomatic envoy to the Latin American country said.
The cardinal and the bishop will visit the Diocese of Ciudad del Este, in the country’s east in late July, said papal nuncio Monsignor Eliseo Ariotti.
They 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.
Urrutigoity is now second in command in Ciudad del Este and his career advance has provoked widespread debate among local bishops as well as opposition from the victims’ support group SNAP.
Urrutigoity was accused of sexual abuse in a highly publicized lawsuit in Scranton in 2002. At the time he and another priest, Eric Ensey, were suspended by now-retired Bishop James Timlin, amid allegations they had sexually molested students at St. Gregory’s Academy in Elmhurst, now closed.
Urrutigoity was transferred to Canada before settling in Paraguay but his Pennsylvania diocese has described him as a “serious threat to young people” on its website and reiterated the concern of Timlin’s successor, Bishop Joseph Martino, who resigned in 2009.
“Martino also carefully and consistently expressed his grave doubts about this cleric’s suitability for priestly ministry and cautioned the Bishop of the Diocese of Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, to not allow Father Urrutigoity to incardinate into his diocese,” according to a statement on the diocese site, referring to the practice of a priest being placed under the jurisdiction of a different bishop.
Last week the Vatican defrocked former papal envoy, Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, and he may face criminal prosecution at the Vatican after a church inquiry convicted him of child sexual abuse.
Wesolowski, who is originally from Poland, was removed from his position in the Dominican Republic and recalled to the Vatican last August amid claims he had abused boys in Santo Domingo.