Pope Francis has fired a Paraguayan bishop accused of sheltering a pedophile. In an official statement, the Vatican confirmed Bishop Rogelio Ricardo Livieres Plano was dismissed from the diocese of Ciudad del Este.
The bishop reportedly provided shelter and support to Fr. Carlos Urrutigoity. In 2002, Urrutigoity was accused of sexually abusing numerous children in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Although the priest was named as a defendant “in a highly publicized” lawsuit, the case was settled out of court.
In 2006, the Pennsylvania diocese agreed to pay the plaintiffs $450,000. As a result of the lawsuit, Urrutigoity was placed under suspension by then-Bishop James Timlin.
Amid the accusations, the priest fled to Canada. He later moved to Paraguay, where he was welcomed into Livieres Plano’s diocese. Despite the ongoing controversy, Livieres Plano appointed Urrutigoity as his vicar general. As reported by Crux, the accused priest essentially became the bishop’s “second-in-command.”
Livieres Plano strongly defended his decision, as he believes the priest was falsely accused. Although he was asked to resign prior to his termination, he refused to go quietly.
Pope Francis said his decision to fire the bishop was incredibly difficult. However, it was necessary for “the greater good of preserving the unity of the local church.”
As reported by the Washington Post, Monsignor Ricardo Jorge Valenzuela Rios was named temporary administrator of the diocese of Ciudad del Este.
Pope Francis has vowed “zero tolerance” in cases of sexual abuse, and he hopes the Paraguay diocese will respect his decision. Through the Vatican, the pope plead with “the clergy and the entire people of God of Ciudad del Este to accept the Holy See’s decision with the spirit of obedience, docility and an open heart, guided by faith.”
Barbara Dorris, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, applauds the pope’s decision to fire the bishop. However, she said the Vatican needs to do more.
“Across the globe, hundreds of thousands of Catholic officials — from pastors to prelates — have ignored or concealed clergy sex crimes and many are still ignoring and concealing clergy sex crimes.”
SNAP represents more than 20,000 survivors of sexual abuse at the hands of religious clergy. The organization was founded to provide information and support to the survivors. SNAP also seeks to prevent future cases of abuse within religious organizations.
Pope Francis’ decision to fire the bishop underlines his “zero tolerance” approach to sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
[Image via NY Page Six]