The Diocese of Winona: A Second Chance for an Abusive Priest

In what has become a tragically routine turn of events, another credibly accused priest has been sheltered from justice by Catholic hierarchs.  Indeed, an accused priest, Father Carlos Urrutigoity, was promoted to vicar general of the Diocese of Eastern Paraguay’s Ciudad del Este following accusations of sex abuse in three other locations.  One of these was the Diocese of Winona in Minnesota.

Urrutigoity was ordained as a member of the rigidly traditionalist Society of St. Pius X in the Diocese of Winona in 1989.  But far from having a promising start to his career as a priest, Urrutigoity had already been accused of molesting a seminarian at Our Lady of Co-Redemptrix in La Reja, Argentina, where he was obtaining his religious education.  Rather than investigating Urrutigoity’s record and proceeding with caution, however, the Diocese of Winona afforded him a second chance.  It was this second chance that gave Urrutigoity the opportunity to abuse his second seminarian, a young man at the Diocese of Winona.
If two accusations of abuse weren’t enough, Urrutigoity was sent to the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania, in 1997 and was allowed to continue in ministry.  Espousing radical beliefs and creating a Tridentine Rite group called the Society of St. John in 1998, Urrutigoity counseled young males where he resided at St. Gregory’s Academy in Moscow, Pennsylvania.  There, Urrutigoity provided cigars and wine to boys, also urging them to sleep in the same bed as him.  With elaborate plans to create a separate town to insulate the Society of St. John,

Urrutigoity plotted to continue his pattern of abuse in Pennsylvania.  These plans were stymied by a 2002 lawsuit filed in Pennsylvania alleging sexual abuse of at least two children, however, and Urrutigoity fled to Ciudad del Este in Paraguay.

Every step of Urrutigoity’s international assignment history is plagued by the taint of sex abuse.  The ease with which Urrutigoity attained access to young people in so many locations is alarming.  But perhaps the most shocking aspect of Urrutigoity’s case is the fact that, contrary to being held accountable for his actions, he has been promoted to second in command at Ciudad del Este and remains there today.  Promoting and exalting clerics who sexually abuse children is no way to deter or prevent this crime, and it is certainly no way to show support for courageous survivors who were abused by priests like Father Carlos Urrutigoity.