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Paraguay: diocese defends bishop, says Cardinal Ratzinger recommended accused priest

August 01, 2014

The Diocese of Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, has published an aggressive defense of the leadership of Bishop Rogelio Livieres Plano, claiming that a priest who had been accused of abuse in the US was placed in ministry on the recommendation of then-Cardinal Ratzinger.

Bishop Livieres incardinated Father Carlos Urrutigoity, who had been accused of sexual abuse in Pennsylvania, into his diocese in 2005. The diocese stated that the priest “came recommended by some cardinals with functions in the Holy See (one of them, elected a few days later Successor of Peter).” In 2005, Bishop Joseph Martino of Scranton suppressed the Society of St. John-- which had been known for its promotion of the extraordinary form of the Mass, but also criticized for reports of lavish spending-- following accusations of sexual abuse against its founder, Father Urrutigoity. Bishop Martino’s predecessor, Bishop James Timlin, had suspended Father Urrutigoity’s faculties after a diocesan review board found an abuse allegation credible. In defending Bishop Livieres, the Paraguayan diocesan website stated:

  • In 2004, Paraguay’s bishops wrote to Pope St. John Paul II to protest his appointment of Father Livieres, a priest of Opus Dei, to the diocese, but the Holy See held firm.
  • Bishop Livieres was the only bishop who publicly opposed the presidential candidacy of former bishop Fernando Lugo, who governed the nation from 2008 to 2012.
  • Opposition to Bishop Livieres among religious orders intensified when he forbade the “political or ideological instrumentalization” of their work and when he called for the proclamation of the Gospel to indigenous peoples.
  • Ten priests from his diocese, and 150 from across the nation, urged Pope Benedict XVI to remove the bishop after he sought to “renew ecclesial discipline.” Today, however, the vast majority of the diocese’s “young and numerous” clergy support him.
  • Bishop Livieres faced opposition from his brother bishops after he founded a major seminary and minor seminary in the diocese, thus ending the “monolithic scheme of priestly formation” at the national seminary.
  • Father Urrutigoity “came recommended by some cardinals with functions in the Holy See (one of them, elected a few days later Successor of Peter).” The Vatican, through the apostolic nuncio, and “with the consent of the excardinating bishop,” authorized the incardination.
  • The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith did not investigate the accusation against Father Urrutigoity because he was not accused of sexual abuse with a minor, but of an action involving an adult. The bishop is convinced of the priest’s innocence.
  • In time, Father Urrutigoity was subsequently appointed vicar general: he was the “almost unanimous” choice of clergy and laity who had been consulted.
  • Following the election of Pope Francis, Paraguay’s leading prelate, Archbishop Eustaquio Pastor Cuquejo Verga of Asunción, asked the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to open a new investigation into Father Urrutigoity despite the lack of any new evidence.
  • Bishop Livieres has also faced opposition for admitting new religious and lay communities into the diocese and for using a grant to fund the education of seminarians.

The diocese also stated that since 2004, the number of priests has risen from 79 to 140, even though 51% of aspirants to the seminary are not admitted. The number of baptisms rose from 9,543 (2004) to 21,556 (2013). “The growth and strength of the people of God in Paraguay were cruelly mutilated” by the suppression of the Jesuit missionaries in the late 18th century, the diocesan statement concluded. “Those who are betting that history will repeat itself now in our diocese” may encounter the “surprise of discovering that, this time, the Bishop of Rome is an heir to those Jesuits calumniated and suppressed.”

The strong defense of Bishop Livieres comes as the diocese awaits the final result of a Vatican-ordered investigation led by Cardinal Santos Abril y Castello. The cardinal advised Bishop Livieres immediately to suspend priestly ordinations in the diocese; he is now making a full report of his findings to Pope Francis, who will determine any further action.


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Show 2 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Defender - Aug. 01, 2014 11:24 AM ET USA

    When I see things like this, "...but of an action involving an adult," it seems clear that even the Vatican turns a blind eye to homosexuality within the ranks.

  • Posted by: 1Jn416 - Aug. 01, 2014 10:33 AM ET USA

    It looks as if the bishop may be attempting to defend himself by throwing Pope Benedict under the bus while simultaneously ingratiating himself to Pope Francis. Does anyone think that will go well for him?