Friday, August 15, 2014

Droppings from the Catholic Birdcage: "How Could a Catholic Priest with Such a History End Up As Second in Command of a Diocese—in 2014?"

At Commonweal, Grant Gallicho examines the curious case of Father Carlos Urrutigoity, who was removed by the Vatican in July from his position as vicar general in the diocese of Ciudad del Este in Paraguay. In defending Urrutigoity and the decision of Ciudad del Este bishop Rogelio Livieres to make him vicar general of the diocese despite repeated (and seemingly credible) allegations that he had sexually abused minors and seminarians, diocesan officials state that Urrutigoity came to Ciudad del Este with the recommendation of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI.

Gallicho writes:

The priest’s rise to prominence tracks closely with the church’s growing awareness of the gravity of clerical sexual abuse. Accusations of misconduct have followed him from Argentina to Pennsylvania. That’s what makes his reappearance in Ciudad del Este—where the bishop had him helping with seminary formation before promoting him to vicar general—so difficult to understand. How could a Catholic priest with such a history end up as second in command of a diocese—in 2014?

How, indeed? 

As Joe Navarro notes in this Psychology Today article, predators appear to be attracted to religious institutions for all kinds of reasons: because the aggregation of congregants at worship services and other religious events creates a pool of potential victims for the predator to prey on; because of the prestige afforded religious leaders; because the club mentality of the leadership structure of many religious organizations affords protection and secrecy for predators; because the predator can exploit claims that he represents God to layfolks and that critical questions about his behavior represent an attack on divine authority; because of the money and other material resources provided to the ordained, etc.

None of this is new, really. But it's important to have lists like the valuable one complied by Navarro to help us better identify and monitor religious leaders who exhibit predatory traits, so that we can keep them from harming the vulnerable. And since we have already been compiling such lists in the Catholic church for some years now, as our pastoral officials tell us they have gotten the abuse crisis under their control, the question that Grant Gallicho asks here desperately needs to be asked:

How could a Catholic priest with such a history end up as second in command of a diocese—in 2014?

What do you think?

(I'm grateful to NSAC News — National Survivor Advocates Coalition News — for circulating the link to Joe Navarro's article in the latest edition of its emailed newsletter.)

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