Harboring Sexual Predators in Scranton?
St. John the Evangelist
An open letter to Bishop James C. Timlin, Diocese of Scranton
January 27, 2002
Dear Bishop Timlin,
It has come to my attention that you have removed Fr. Carlos Urrutigoity and Fr. Eric Ensey from the Society of St. John (SSJ), and have relocated them in Scranton. Your action is long overdue, though it is hardly a sufficient remedy for the sexual offenses these priests have committed. The fact that you have not suspended these priests shows your continued negligence in this matter. Indeed, you are guilty of gross negligence, for your inaction over a period of years has allowed these priests to continue their immoral relations with boys. Your guilt is established by a brief review of what you knew about these priests, and when you knew it:
(1) YOUR KNOWLEDGE THAT SSJ PRIESTS PLIED BOYS WITH ALCOHOL
In March 1998, Fr. Paul Carr, then chaplain of St. Gregory’s Academy, an all-boys school run by the Fraternity of St. Peter, discovered boys in the dormitory in a state of extreme intoxication. Fr. Carr then discovered that members of the Society of St. John had provided these boys with alcohol. Given the severely drunken state of these boys, Fr. Carr called the police. The police arrived and issued warnings to members of the Society for serving alcohol to minors. Fr. Carr subsequently informed you of the situation.
Your response was to do nothing so that scandal might be avoided. You not only allowed the Society to continue to live at St. Gregory’s Academy, but you even permitted the Society priests to become the chaplains there during the following school year. As a result, Fr. Urrutigoity and Fr. Ensey were free to continue to ply the boys at St. Gregory's Academy with alcohol and lure some of them into bed. Indeed, members of the Society again served alcohol to boys to the point of intoxication after the graduation ceremonies at St. Gregory’s Academy in June. Moreover, when the Society moved onto its own property in Shohola, PA, these priests continued to serve alcohol to boys and to lure them into bed.
(2) YOUR FAILURE TO DO ADEQUATE BACKGROUND CHECKS ON SSJ MEMBERS
In May 1998, you canonically established the Society of St. John in the Diocese of Scranton without having done adequate background checks on the clerics in this group. Prior to that event, when you permitted the priests of the Society to serve as the chaplains to the boys at St. Gregory’s Academy, you violated your own diocesan guidelines that require background checks for anyone working with youth. Had you followed your own diocesan guidelines in this matter, you would have learned from the authorities of the Society of St. Pius X that Fr. Urrutigoity had been dismissed from the seminary in La Reja, Argentina for homosexual molestation. The fact that you knew that Fr. Urrutigoity had also been dismissed from the St. Pius X seminary in Winona, MN, should have made you even more vigilant with respect to making proper background checks.
(3) YOUR DISMISSAL OF SERIOUS TESTIMONY OF HOMOSEXUAL MOLESTATION
In February 1999, Bishop Bernard Fellay of the Society of St. Pius X informed you by letter that a young seminarian from the seminary in Winona had accused Fr. Urrutigoity of molesting him. This charge was supported by the personal testimony of the seminarian in July 1999 before your auxiliary, Bishop Dougherty, who told the seminarian that he believed his testimony. That seminarian, at the conclusion of his testimony, warned Bishop Dougherty that if Fr. Urrutigoity were not stopped, others would be molested. Nonetheless, you dismissed the testimony as “inconclusive,” and allowed Fr. Urrutigoity to continue to serve as chaplain to the boys at St. Gregory's Academy. You even failed to warn the authorities at the Fraternity of St. Peter and at St. Gregory's Academy of the danger to the boys under the "spiritual direction" of Fr. Urrutigoity and other members of the Society.
(4) YOUR DISMISSAL OF ADDITIONAL INCRIMINATING EVIDENCE AGAINST SSJ
In the fall and winter of 1999, the key members of the Board of Advisors to the Society of St. John resigned. These distinguished Catholic businessmen made serious allegations against the Society for gross financial mismanagement. At that time, it was also brought to your attention that Fr. Daniel Fullerton, one of the founding members of the Society, had encouraged young men to swim naked at the Society’s property in Shohola. Your response was to issue a formal statement in which you said that you were “morally certain” that the Society had committed no wrongdoing.
(5) YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF FR. URRUTIGOITY’S HABIT OF SLEEPING WITH BOYS
In the summer and fall of 2001, you were informed by at least three different sources that Fr. Urrutigoity had a habit of sleeping with boys and young men. One of these sources was Fr. Paul Carr, now District Superior of the Fraternity of St. Peter. Another source was an eyewitness to the fact that Fr. Urrutigoity plied boys on the Shohola property with alcohol, and then slept with them in his private chambers. I myself was the third source, who, in numerous face-to-face meetings with you and Bishop Dougherty, presented compelling evidence of serious immoral behavior on the part of Fr. Urrutigoity. Bishop Dougherty, who had already heard the testimony of the two above-mentioned sources, told me that Fr. Urrutigoity was a “cult leader” who was “capable of pederasty at any time.”
Each of the three sources approached you independently of the other two. Yet you ignored all of their dire warnings, including the judgment of your own auxiliary, Bishop Dougherty. And you did this knowing that Fr. Urrutigoity had been accused of homosexual molestation in 1999. In sum, you allowed a priest whom you knew was sleeping with boys, and who already had a history of sexual misconduct, to continue as Superior General of the Society of St. John.
(6) YOUR LIES AND YOUR COVER-UP OF THE SSJ FINANCE AND SEX SCANDAL
From our very first conversation concerning Fr. Urrutigoity’s habit of sleeping with boys, you vehemently insisted that this habit was not immoral. You repeatedly claimed to have thoroughly investigated the Society and cleared them of any immorality, a lie that was then repeated by the Society to its donors. You yourself contacted donors directly and lied to them by claiming that I had not accused Fr. Urrutigoity of any immorality. And yet Bishop Dougherty, who knew better, had admitted that Fr. Urrutigoity was “grooming” young men for future sexual encounters.
You also insisted that the College of St. Justin Martyr remain associated with the Society even though you knew that Society priests were sleeping with boys. When I was compelled, in order to protect the College’s reputation, to dissociate the College from the Society, you suppressed the College even though the College had done no wrong. Later, under the pressure of adverse publicity, you contacted friends of the College and told them that you would allow the College of St. Justin Martyr to be established in your Diocese if I stopped my public and private criticism of Fr. Urrutigoity and the Society. When I wrote to you to inform you that I would not trade my silence for your permission for the College, you wrote back and again lied by denying that you had ever made such an offer.
Although Bishop Dougherty stated that Fr. Urrutigoity should be deposed, and that “radical intervention” was necessary to correct the Society’s wayward conduct, you failed to intervene in a principled manner. Indeed, when the Society’s developer tried to present you with his studies that demonstrated that the development was infeasible, you indicated that it was not necessary to discuss this matter. Why? Because, as you explained at the time, you had already decided that the Society’s property would have to be sold. Nonetheless, you continued to allow the Society to solicit funds for a development project that you admitted was “dead.” When Bishop Dougherty was asked whether your failure to take disciplinary action indicated that you were held hostage by the Society’s huge debt, he answered “yes.”
In short, the above demonstrates a consistent and determined effort on your part to cover up the scandal surrounding the Society, and to protect yourself and priests who have abused their spiritual office.
(7) YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF THE ACCUSATION OF MOLESTATION AGAINST FR. ENSEY
You learned from my e-mail of December 8, 2001 that a minor had accused Fr. Ensey of repeatedly molesting him. Yet you waited for well over a month before removing Fr. Ensey from pastoral activity on the Society’s property. Had you made a genuine investigation of the Society in 1999 when a similar accusation was made against Fr. Urrutigoity, you would have learned then that Fr. Ensey was also a sexual predator who was molesting at least one boy at St. Gregory’s Academy.
(8) YOUR ACCEPTANCE OF SSJ PRIESTS SLEEPING WITH YOUNG MEN
Over the course of the last six months, you have told me and others on numerous occasions that you do not consider priests sleeping with young men to be immoral. This is why you have refused to take disciplinary action against Fr. Urrutigoity and Fr. Ensey, and why these priests have been able to pursue their perverse ends over a period of years.
The above known facts establish your gross negligence, Bishop Timlin, the consequence of which is that faith and lives have been severely damaged.
Yet even now you continue to talk about giving Fr. Urrutigoity the "benefit of the doubt" and treating him with "charity." All who are Catholic agree that charity is the law that must govern all our actions, but how can it be charitable to allow a sexual predator to continue to prey upon boys? Yours is a false notion of charity, Bishop Timlin, for it shows love for neither the victims nor even the predator himself, who must be stopped for his own good as well as for the good of those whom he seeks to abuse. Real charity would lead you to take salutary disciplinary action against Fr. Urrutigoity and Fr. Ensey.
You speak freely of charity for the accused priests, yet I have never yet heard you use the word "charity" in reference to the victims. In fact, you have still failed to contact the parents of the boys who were exposed to the priests of the Society of St. John. When recently asked why you had not informed the parents, you responded that you did not know their names. Are we to believe you could not have picked up the telephone to contact St. Gregory's Academy in order to find out who these boys were? Your lack of care for the victims is evident for all to see.
In addition to coddling the predators while ignoring the real needs of their victims, you have accused me and others of "attacking the Church" because we have sought to expose the wicked deeds of these priests. Turning a flashlight on the cockroaches in the Church can hardly be construed as an attack on the Church herself. It is rather you, and others in the hierarchy like you, who are destroying our beloved Church, for you have repeatedly sought to bury the truth of these ugly matters. You have sought to protect your own reputation and sympathies while invoking the authority of your office against those who are bringing the truth to light. You purport to be defending the Church against scandal, but fear of scandal is never an excuse for allowing harm to be done to souls. Pope St. Gregory the Great said it best: "It is better that scandals arise than that the truth be suppressed."
As an anointed of Christ, you are obliged to protect the souls of your flock, even if your attorneys and insurance agents instruct you otherwise. Who is running the Church, you or they? Your decision merely to relocate Fr. Urrutigoity and Fr. Ensey to Scranton, without even suspending them, is more of the same pattern of behavior suitable to a corrupt politician rather than a bishop of the Catholic Church. You are merely hedging your bets: if the bad publicity increases, you will stress the fact that you have removed these priests from pastoral life; but if the bad publicity decreases, you will allow them to return to Shohola, or to some other parish, where they will begin anew the cycle of abuse and deception. In the meantime, you have allowed Fr. Urrutigoity and Fr. Ensey to receive young men in their company while they are supposedly sequestered in Scranton. Have you no conscience?
Fr. Urrutigoity and Fr. Ensey must be immediately suspended, and canonical proceedings for their laicization initiated. Fr. Urrutigoity and Fr. Ensey, as Superior General and Chancellor, respectively, are the leaders of the Society of St. John. To uncover the extent to which their moral corruption has infected the rest of the Society, a full and independent investigation of the other clerics in the Society must be undertaken. The investigation must determine if the other clerics have been complicit in the sexual abuse of boys and the cover-up of such blatantly immoral and criminal acts. These clerics are: Fr. Daniel Fullerton, Fr. Basel Sarweh, Fr. Dominic Carey, Fr. Dominic O’Connor, Fr. Marshall Roberts, Fr. Bernardo Terrera, Deacon Joseph Levine, and Deacon James Lane.
Finally, Bishop Timlin, I ask you to find the moral courage to acknowledge your responsibility for the grave harm that you have done, and to resign as Bishop of Scranton, for you have repeatedly shown yourself unwilling to protect the souls entrusted to you by our Lord.
Dr. Jeffrey M. Bond
College of St. Justin Martyr
142 Market Road
Greeley, PA 18425
# Scranton Scandal - A Follow-up: The bishop speaks (National Review Online)
# Scranton Scandal: Traditional Catholics are not immune to sex scandals (National Review Online)
# A Catholic community is shaken to its core (TimesLeader.com)
# Two priests relieved of duties as name of alleged victim surfaces (TimesLeader.com)
# Harboring Catholic priests who are sexual predators (Roman Catholic Faithful)