Priests Said to Cross Borders to Escape Abuse Charges

National Catholic Reporter, July 2, 2004 | Go to article overview

Priests Said to Cross Borders to Escape Abuse Charges


A yearlong investigation into 200 cases of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy by The Dallas Morning News found that nearly half involved clergy that tried to elude law enforcement by crossing international borders, often with assistance from their superiors, and many of these remained in active ministry.

"About 30 remain free in one country while facing ongoing criminal inquiries, arrest warrants or convictions in another," the Dallas paper said in the introduction to a multipart series of articles that began running June 20.

"Most runaway priests remain in the church, the world's largest organization, so they should be easier to locate than other fugitives.

"Instead, Catholic leaders have used international transfers to thwart justice, a practice that poses far greater challenges to law enforcement than the domestic moves exposed in the 2002 scandal," the introduction said.

Each day between June 20 and June 23, The News carried front-page stories with extensive details of four cases:

* Fr. Frank Klep is a convicted child molester and wanted on more charges in Australia. However, in 1998 his religious order assigned him to a college on the South Pacific island of Samoa, where the Dallas paper photographed him dispensing candy to children after Mass.

* Fr. Enrique Vasquez fled his native Costa Rica in 1998 the day before charges of abusing a 10-year-old altar boy were brought against him. He went on to work in the New York archdiocese and traveled extensively in the United States for Hispanic ministry assignments. He fled again to Mexico in 2002 and later to Honduras.

* Fr. Nicolas Aguilar was sent by his bishop from Cuacnopalan, Mexico, to Southern California to get a fresh start in 1987, after he was shot and nearly beaten to death by parents of children who said he had sexually abused them. He stayed in Los Angeles for just nine months, but according to police he molested at least 26 boys. He returned to Mexico. Abuse allegations and criminal charges continued to be leveled against Aguilar, and he was even convicted in 2003, but he was spared punishment on a technicality. All the while he continued with parish ministry.

* Fr. Yusaf Dominic, a Pakistani who was arrested and jailed for molestation of a minor in England in 1996, disappeared from a treatment facility in 1997 before he could be tried. The dioceses of Lahore and Multan, Pakistan, barred him from ministry, so he tried the United States. Church officials in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Los Angeles denied him postings, but he worked about two months at parish in Newark, N.J. The News finally found him in Albissola Marina, Italy, celebrating parish Masses.

The Dallas Morning News series was written by Brendan M. Case, Brooks Egerton and Reese Dunklin.

The News said it would continue to run stories from its investigation over the next several months. The series is available in English and Spanish at www. …

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