Thursday, August 20, 2015

Will Newark Archbishop John Myers Be at Papal Events in U.S. Next Month? Yet Another Sordid Tale of Clerical Abuse (and Cover-Up) from Newark Diocese

Archbishop John Myers

A question that comes to my mind as I read Mark Mueller's article at Religion Dispatches Religion News Service* about New Jersey priest Manuel Gallo Espinoza, who is now being sought by New Jersey authorities after he has admitted raping a 15-year-old boy, Max Rojas Ramirez: 

Will Newark archbishop John Myers be attending the various east coast events next month featuring Pope Francis? I would imagine so. And what about Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore and Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington, Virginia in whose dioceses Espinoza worked after, it now appears, Newark church officials knew that Espinoza had molested a minor? As the New Jersey Advanced Media article linked in the Religion News Service article cited above notes, Espinoza worked at schools in the diocese of Arlington and also in Prince George's County, Maryland, after he fled the country after Ramirez reported his abuse, then returned to the U.S. and worked in a number of schools following his return.**

I would imagine they, too, will be at the various events to honor Pope Francis next month.

As Mueller reports, Espinoza is blaming the boy he raped and claiming that Ramirez seduced him. He has published an extraordinary statement to this effect. 

After Ramirez told a nun and another priest what Espinoza had done to him, Espinoza fled back to his native Ecuador. He then returned to the U.S. and was a teacher in both Maryland and Virginia. He's now back in Ecuador, still working as a teacher, and is being sought by New Jersey criminal authorities.

As David Clohessy points out in a SNAP media release, Espinoza fled the U.S. to avoid police because fellow priests Father Jevie Hercules and Antonino Salazar told him to take that step — and so (my deduction, not something David says explicitly) it would seem rather certain that Newark diocesan officials knew that Espinoza had molested Ramirez, which would also mean that Catholic officials in the dioceses in which he subsequently worked would very likely have known of his history as well.

David Clohessy writes, 

Shame on every last Catholic employee who hid or enabled Fr. Espinoza’s crimes. (Over the years, we suspect that dozens of Newark church officials have learned details about Fr. Espinoza’s crimes, escapes and whereabouts but have kept quiet instead of calling authorities.) They knowingly put innocent children in harm’s way. Their self-serving secrecy and recklessness shows how very little has changed within the Catholic hierarchy. The obsession is still on protecting clerical careers and comfort, even if it means endangering kids.

And he adds,

We call on bishops in three states – Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey – to aggressively seek out others who saw, suspected or suffered crimes by Fr. Espinoza. We also urge them to turn over every single page of records they may have on Fr. Espinoza to police and prosecutors. And we beg these bishops to use parish bulletins, church websites and pulpit announcements to prod anyone with information or suspicions to call law enforcement.

So I ask again: will Myers, Lori, and Loverde be at any events featuring Pope Francis next month? I'd imagine they will be, especially when those events will be right in the back yard of these three bishops.

And what, if anything, will Pope Francis have to say to them, I wonder? As David Clohessy observes — and he's right — this sordid story is "proof that little is changing in the Catholic hierarchy."

(For previous postings here about Archbishop John Myers [and Archbishop William Lori], please click their names in the labels below.)

* My thanks to Kathy Shaw for spotting this error and letting me know about it.

** Please note my correction of my original statement that Espinoza worked in the archdiocese of Baltimore following his return to the U.S. Prince George's County is not in the archdiocese of Baltimore. It is one of five counties in the Maryland that belong to the ecclesiastical province of D.C. rather than of Baltimore.

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