Vol.19  No.0322
Friday Edition, March 22, 2019 Second news page
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Second Catholic priest in less than a month
arrested on suspicion of child sex abuse


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
   

The Professional Migration Police detained a Catholic priest surnamed Morales - Salazar, at the border post in Paso Canoas* on the border between Costa Rica and Panama at 6:34 a.m. on Thursday. A warrant had been issued for his arrest on suspicion of sexual abuse of a minor.

Police report that they suspect that Father Morales-Salazar intended to flee to Panama. When he presented his passport at the border, the Interpol alert system showed that there was an arrest warrant out for him and he was detained.

Agents of Judicial Investigation Organization took the priest from Paso Canoas to the Tobias Bolaños Airport in Pavas* by air. He was then taken to the cells of the Public Ministry, where he was interviewed by judicial agents. In the next few hours, a judge is expected to dictate the pre-trial measures against him.

The accusation against Morales - Salazar, was made on March 15 at a prosecutor’s office by a young man surnamed Arguedas, who stated that he had suffered abuse by the priest for two years during his adolescence. 

The position of the Catholic Church regarding the arrest of the priest was given by spokesman, Jeison Granados:

"The complaint was registered here (referring to the offices of the Catholic Church headquarters in San Jose) by the complainant, his parents, his brother, and some witnesses. It was he and his parent's decision, for personal reasons, they were not going to put a criminal complaint."

Regarding the priest’s apparent attempt to flee the country, Granados said "he will receive a warning from the Bishop for not having reported his departure from the country. All the priests when they leave the country have to notify the bishop at an office, we did not know he was going to leave the country."

Referring to the young man's complaint, Granados confirmed that, "The canonical denunciation against the priest that was presented in May 2013, was presented in the Metropolitan Curia. The process in the Archdiocese of San José was carried out and the case was sent to the Vatican."

Apparently, the Vatican had responded to the complaint, however, the Costa Rican Catholic Church returned the case for a review. "The Vatican sent a prior resolution, but the Costa Rican ecclesiastical tribunal requested a new revision," said Granados.

With respect to the activities of the priest, who continued to serve mass, Granados said that Morales - Salazar did not exercise any ministerial activities. He had been limited to "celebrating mass in a monastery of nuns in Guadalupe."

"We trust in the judicial processes of Costa Rica and we trust that this process will be resolved," said Granados.

This is the second arrest in this month, of a priest accused of sexual abuse against a minor. As A.M. Costa Rica reported on March 1, agents of the Prosecutor's Office of San José detained a Catholic priest surnamed Guevara-Fonseca outside his house in the province of Heredia.

He was taken to the cells of the Public Ministry in Calle Blancos where the investigative process is being carried out. He was also interviewed by the judicial agents and a judge ruled pre-trial measures which included surrendering his passport, not leaving the country, not approaching any of the people related to the case, and signing in at the Public Ministry twice a month.

Father Guevara-Fonseca’s case was registered as file # 19-000569-0175-PE, on nine complaints of sexual abuse against a minor.

On March 7,
during the raid conducted by agents of the Judicial Investigation Agency in the Episcopal Conference of the Catholic Church* in San Jose, a man surnamed Barrantes, made a public complaint against a priest surnamed Guevara-Fonseca for sexually abusing him when he was a minor.

The Episcopal Conference of Costa Rica is the permanent administrative institution of the Catholic Church. It is a college composed of all the bishops of the dioceses of Costa Rica in communion with the Roman Pontiff and under his authority.

According to Mr. Barrantes’ statement, he went to the Episcopal Conference yesterday to register a canonical denunciation Father Guevara-Fonseca for sexually abusing him when he was a child.

The facts that Mr. Barrantes reported would have occurred between 1992 and 1993 when he was 12 years old. At that time, he was an altar boy and assisted Father Guevara-Fonseca in the Church of Sabanilla in Montes de Oca*, in San José.

"I had the courage to make this complaint when I found out that there is an active case at this time presented by another person against that priest," said Mr. Barrantes.

When asked if he had presented the accusation to the Judicial Investigation Organization, Mr. Barrantes said that, "I cannot make a complaint in the courts because unfortunately, my case has prescribed (lapsed in time)."

Regarding his report, Barrantes said that "what happened to me was many years ago and I don't know how many more victims there will be. I feel part of the guilt because of having not done something before and (there) might be another person had been also abused."

Mr. Barrantes arrival at the Conference at the same time a raid was in progress was accidental. Mr. Barrantes said "Seeing this situation, even though it is going to delay the process of my declaration, gives me hopes that the police want to do something about it and discover many cases that are accumulating dust there" (referring to other complaints that were made against the Catholic Church years ago).

Relating the facts in his case, Mr. Barrantes said that, "this happened many years ago. I lost my innocence. I told my parents, but the problem was that he (referring to Father Guevara-Fonseca) was a friend of my family and they didn't do anything. So I also thought that I was just a child and I could not do anything about it. "

Regarding the possibility that other children who went to the same church could have been abused, Mr. Barrantes said, "I lost contact with all of them, even with a friend who also worked at altar server like me. I know some things also happened to him, but I do not know if he would be another victim."

The raids made at the Episcopal Conference were the joint work of the Prosecutor's Office of the Second Judicial Circuit* of San José and the Deputy Prosecutor of Gender. They were ordered based on two independent investigations that are being pursued against priests, one surnamed Víquez-Lizano and the other surnamed Guevara-Fonseca, both suspected of alleged sexual crimes with minors.

Officials report that the raids occurred as ordered at the headquarters of the Ecclesiastical Court, and the Metropolitan Curia, in San José.

The raids resulted in the search and seizure of files that could contain relevant documentary evidence in the cases which are in the preparatory phase of the investigation.

The first case was registered as file #18-000854-0994-PE, in which a priest surnamed Víquez-Lizano was accused, for the alleged crime of qualified violation.



Professional Migration Police courtesy photo

The accusation against Morales - Salazar, was made on March 15 at a prosecutor’s office by a young man surnamed Arguedas, who stated that he had suffered abuse by the priest for two years during his adolescence. 

 


The second case was registered as file #19-000569-0175-PE, against a priest surnamed Guevara-Fonseca, who is being investigated on nine complaints as a suspect of the alleged crime of sexual abuse against a minor.

According to the prosecutor, Article #295 of the Criminal Code establishes the privacy of the proceedings in the preparatory stage, so that the material confiscated from the Catholic Church will be classified as private until the prosecutor presents the case to a judge.



In reaction to
Guevara-Fonseca’s arrest, Jeison Granados, spokesman for the Archdiocese of San José, said: "He is still a priest, he is in a canonical process.”  The Metropolitan Curia (referring to the Costa Rican Catholic Church leaders) was to say that they have total confidence in the Costa Rican judicial system and are sure that the system will find the facts of the matter.

However, leaders of the Catholic Church removed him as a priest as the response of the complaints about alleged sexual abuse of a child.



"The Archdiocese of San José, informed (the public) that presbyter Guevara-Fonseca, who was the priest of the Church of Santo Domingo in Heredia, has been removed from that parish. This decision responds to a precautionary measure due to the fact that there is a Canonic complaint against him for alleged inappropriate behavior in relation to a minor," said the Church's statement.

 

Also on February 23rd, the administration of the church of Santo Domingo de Heredia* informed to the congregation the departure of the priest with the following statement:



"Dear brothers and sisters: Father Guevara is no longer in a priest of Santo Domingo, he has left to attend personal responsibilities. He is grateful for the fraternal experience of the Domingüeña community (referring to the members of the Church of Santo Domingo). He asks to be excused for the abrupt departure, but it could not be otherwise. He appreciates everyone's understanding. And he manifests the blessing that was the community for him, where his health has become broken. But with the support of everybody that has given to him the courage necessary to move forward. He says goodbye asking us to have him in our prayers."



The church made the decision to sanction the priest after learning about the criminal complaint that was filed February 25 before the Criminal Court of Guadalupe in San José.



In the case of Father Víquez-Lizano, suspected of sexual abuse of a child, he has been expelled from the Clerical State.



In that case, Jason Granados spokesman of Costa Rican Catholic Church, confirmed that  Víquez-Lizano  was sentenced to the maximum sanction imposed by the church in cases such as pedophilia.




Granados said that the resolution, issued on February 25, 2019, reads: "Imposed to the Reverend Víquez Lizano, priest of the Archdiocese of San José, the perpetual and expiatory sentence of expulsion from the Clerical State."



In the case of now-former Father Víquez-Lizano, nine complaints have been filed for alleged sexual abuse against minors and one criminal complaint about alleged violation of a minor, a total of ten cases so far.

Statistics of the last ten years, reported Mr. Granados, show there have been more cases in which the Catholic Church has investigated priests for complaints related to sexual abuse.


"In eight cases, the suspects were sentenced with canonical punishment. In seven cases the suspects have been punished with the resignation and expulsion from the Clerical State. In one case, the suspect was sentenced not to hold parish offices. There are still 8 cases under investigation. In one more case, the suspect was dismissed by the authorities in Rome and in one case the suspect was dismissed right at the investigation stage. One last case was closed because of the priest dead," said Granados.



Regarding the position of the Catholic Church in the specific case of former priest Víquez-Lizano, Mr. Granado said that "he must face the case and surrender to the authorities."


The Vatican sentence can be appealed. To appeal, Víquez-Lizano has 60 days to file. "If in 60 days he does not file an appeal then that sentence will un-appealable," said Granados.



According to Granados, Catholic Church officials could not find Víquez-Lizano to notify him about the Vatican resolution.



On Feb. 21, a judge in the Desamparados city court requested an international arrest warrant for Víquez-Lizano, who is charged with the sexual abuse of two children in 2003.



The suspect is being investigated for the alleged rape of two men surnamed Rodríguez and Venegas who were minors in 2003.




According to the Prosecutor's Office of Desamparados city court, the case was elevated so that it could involve an international arrest order with Interpol.



The press office of the Catholic Church confirmed that the paperwork had already been done at the internal level of the organization and that the ex-priest had been asked to appear before the prosecution and face the case.



Auxiliary bishop Daniel Blanco, of the Archdiocese of San José, said, "the Church has not put, or will put, any obstacle to this process. We ask Mr. Víquez-Lizano to surrender to the authorities."



According to the record of departures of the General Directorate of Migration, Víquez-Lizano left the country on January 7, 2019.

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Should the Catholic Church immediately report to police all complaints against priests for sexual abuse or other allegations? We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to: news@amcostarica.com

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