SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — The Vatican has told the bishop in the Diocese of Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, to stop ordaining priests amid ongoing allegations of sexual abuse committed by a high-ranking diocesan official.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said July 30 that Ciudad del Este Bishop Rogelio Livieres Plano was asked “as a cautionary measure … to not proceed with additional priestly ordinations.”
The request came during a July canonical visit by Cardinal Santos Abril Castello, archpriest of Rome’s Basilica of St. Mary Major. Cardinal Abril is expected to relay his findings from the trip to Pope Francis, Father Lombardi said.
The trip came just days after Bishop Livieres removed Msgr. Carlos Urrutigoity from his post of vicar general of the diocese “on the grounds of needing him to take on other tasks,” Father Lombardi said.
Prior to moving to Paraguay in 2005, Msgr. Urrutigoity, an Argentine priest, held posts in Argentina and Winona, Minnesota. He was accepted into the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania, in 1997.
A 2002 federal lawsuit claims that while in Scranton, living at St. Gregory’s Academy in Elmhurst, Msgr. Urrutigoity slept in a bed with a student to whom he “directed inappropriate sexual contact.”
The suit did not say whether the plaintiff was a minor at the time of the alleged incident. The case was reportedly settled in 2005 for a sum of $400,000.
After the suit was filed, then-Bishop James C. Timlin sent Msgr. Urrutigoity to Canada for psychological evaluation.
A statement posted on the Scranton diocesan website in March said Msgr. Urrutigoity “was identified as posing a serious threat to young people.” Diocesan leaders “expressed 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.”
A spokesman for the Ciudad del Este Diocese referred Catholic News Service to a statement, which called the accusations against Msgr. Urrutigoity a “harsh campaign of libel and slander” coming from the United States.
That statement suggests the accusations against Msgr. Urrutigoity were a political tool to discredit Bishop Livieres because, in 2012, he had attempted to open a new seminary that would “seek a more radical application of the guidelines of the Second Vatican Council.”
The statement said the formation of the seminary surprised and angered Paraguayan church leaders, who then tried to dismantle it.
“A separate chapter in this history of opposition to our bishop and the new seminary is undoubtedly the attack on Father Carlos Urrutigoity,” the statement said. “His case was used as a workhorse to question the pastoral achievements in the diocese.”
The statement said all allegations of inappropriate conduct were false.