VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis is taking action in a divisive diocese in Paraguay where an Argentine priest, accused by a former superior of being a "serious threat to young people," has been removed as the No. 2.
The Rev. Carlos Urrutigoity is still an active priest in the Ciudad del Este diocese, however, in a sign that he remains in good standing with his bishop.
Urrutigoity has denied allegations of impropriety and has never been charged, and his bishop, Monsignor Rogelio Livieres, has stressed that there is no accusation against him that he sexually abused minors. But Urrutigoity's case re-emerged after Francis sent a team of Vatican investigators to the diocese this month to look into criticisms against Livieres by local residents and other Paraguayan prelates.
Livieres in 2005 allowed Urrutigoity to join his diocese, even though Urrutigoity's then-superior in Pennsylvania had warned Livieres and the Vatican that he was a threat and unsuitable for the priesthood.
Urrutigoity had been a member of the schismatic, traditionalist Society of St. Pius X. He later joined the Scranton diocese in Pennsylvania and founded a priestly society where the old Latin Mass was celebrated.
In 2004, though, Scranton Bishop Joseph Martino suppressed the society, citing financial instability and allegations of sexual misconduct against Urrutigoity.
Urrutigoity's subsequent re-emergence in Paraguay was documented by the online resource BishopAccountability.org and the Global Post.
In a statement Wednesday, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, confirmed that Livieres had removed Urrutigoity as vicar general on July 14, a few days before the Vatican investigators arrived, but that he was doing other jobs.
Lombardi also said that as a preliminary result of the Vatican probe, priestly ordinations in the diocese had been suspended.
Livieres, who is a member of the conservative Opus Dei movement, has defended his establishment of a new seminary and boasted about his record in finding new priestly vocations. But he has also acknowledged that other Paraguayan prelates have opposed his initiatives, apparently the primary reason for the Vatican investigation.
He has been in a public spat with the archbishop of Asuncion in what appears to be an ideologically driven dispute over the training of priests and the spiritual direction of Paraguay's church.
In a statement Wednesday, BishopAccountability's Anne Barrett Doyle said Livieres should be punished beyond just having his ordinations suspended for having willingly ignored the warnings of the Scranton bishop about Urrutigoity.
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