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.
STATEMENT FROM THE SOCIETY OF ST. JOHN
Over the past few months many false rumors have been circulated, mainly via e-mail, accusing the Society of St. John and some of its members of financial and moral misconduct. These rumors have been extremely slanderous in nature and have been so audacious and arrogant in character as to try to discredit not only the Society of St. John, but even the Bishop of Scranton and his auxiliary.
More recently, allegations of moral misconduct have been levied against two of our priests. These allegations are also false.
Below is an official statement from the Diocese of Scranton, which addresses the situation.
If you have any questions or concerns, please feel welcome to contact us at 570.685.5151.
Please remember us in your prayers during these very difficult times.
Yours in Christ,
STATEMENT FROM THE DIOCESE OF SCRANTON:
The Diocese of Scranton absolutely denies that the Diocese has ever harbored priests who are sexual predators. Bishop Timlin is outraged that any person or persons would ever make such a serious allegation without knowing the facts.
The press release given out by an organization which calls itself Roman Catholic Faithful, Inc. contains egregious errors of fact to which no reasonable person should give any credence.
Whenever anyone has come forth with credible evidence of sexual misconduct, the Diocese would immediately investigate the allegations and would act properly in accord with our Diocesan Guidelines. To say the Diocese refused to take action is simply not true. No such instance occurs without an immediate meeting of the Clergy Review Board, an independent group of clergy and lay professionals who review the allegations.
There have been allegations made against two priests of the Society of St. John. These priests deny these allegations. In accord with diocesan policy, however, they have left their posts until the investigation is completed and appropriate action is determined.
As wrong as the alleged actions in this case might be, and, if true, they are very wrong, certainly it would also be wrong for the Church to pass judgment on individuals without sufficient evidence. Suffice it to say that the Church's law and diocesan policies have been followed at all times and will continue to be adhered to until this unfortunate situation is resolved. There has never been any effort to cover up anything or to ignore the seriousness of these allegations.
To say that a priest was being transferred to another religious community to go on corrupting the morals of others is false as false can be and deserves no credence whatsoever. That Bishop Timlin ignored these allegations is also false and malicious. No one who knows Bishop Timlin would ever question his moral courage.
Calling for Bishop Timlin's resignation is arrogance run wild. Bishop Timlin will tender his resignation to the Pope when he reaches 75 years old on August 5, 2002, as required by the laws of the Church. His resignation is a matter strictly between the Bishop and the Holy See, and these people have a nerve even suggesting such a thing because they think the Bishop did not do what they want him to do.
Scranton Auxiliary Bishop John Dougherty is also outraged to see his name used in support of the statements in this release. He has asked that they cease quoting him incorrectly but to date they have not done so.
As far as charges of financial mismanagement which have been made against the Society of St. John are concerned, the Diocese of Scranton has every reason to believe that the Society has exercised scrupulous care and restraint in this area for some time now.
Finally, Bishop Timlin is not being held hostage by anyone, and certainly not by the Society of St. John because of finances. It is ludicrous for anyone to suggest otherwise.
Since these matters may be open to litigation, all further inquiries should be referred to our Diocesan Attorney.
January 24, 2002
DR. BOND'S RESPONSE TO THE SOCIETY OF ST. JOHN AND BISHOP TIMLIN:
Regarding the Society of St. John Statement:
Why has no one from the Society of St. John, in particular the Superior General, been willing to put his name to this e-mail letter?
Why has the Society of St. John failed to address the specific accusations made against its members?
To characterize my e-mail letters as "rumors" is a total deception. A rumor is talk or opinion widely disseminated with no discernible source. The Society knows well that I am the source, for I have put my name to all my e-mail letters. But for fear of legal repercussions, the Society has not mentioned me by name. They prefer to make private attacks that they believe are shielded from prosecution.
The word "rumor" also suggests unsupported opinion. My letters, however, are based upon the testimony of young men and boys who have slept in the same bed with Fr. Urrutigoity or Fr. Ensey, and in some cases, have been molested by them. This testimony is supported by affidavits that state that these priests plied young men and boys with alcohol to the point of intoxication, and that those same young men and boys slept in the same bed in the private chambers of these priests. Even a casual review of my letters dispels any suggestion that the accusations against the Society are mere "rumors."
As for the accusation that my e-mail letters are "extremely slanderous in nature," I challenge and defy anyone in the Society of St. John to bring a lawsuit against me. In fact, I have already received a letter dated November 21, 2001 from Sal Cognetti, Jr., a Scranton attorney hired by Fr. Urrutigoity, no doubt with Diocesan approval, to threaten me with a lawsuit for libel and slander. That letter, like the Society’s e-mail letter above, was all bluster and no substance. The Society of St. John has not, and will not bring a lawsuit for libel or slander precisely because the accusations I have made are true. I would like nothing more than to be sued by the Society, for then the full truth would be revealed once depositions were taken and testimony given under threat of criminal prosecution for perjury.
To imply that any effort to discredit the Society of St. John is "audacious and arrogant" because the Society is somehow in the same league as "the Bishop of Scranton and his auxiliary," is itself the height of audacity and arrogance. Sadly, the Bishop and his auxiliary have, by their efforts to protect the Society, descended to the Society’s own depraved level by pitting episcopal authority against the truth.
Finally, it should be noted that the Society has once again wrapped itself in the mantle of Bishop Timlin, who falsely assured the faithful in his statement of October 26, 2000 that he was "morally certain" that the Society was guilty of no wrongdoing. Are we to believe Bishop Timlin’s assurances now?
Regarding the Diocese of Scranton Statement:
[The Diocese of Scranton absolutely denies that the Diocese has ever harbored priests who are sexual predators. Bishop Timlin is outraged that any person or persons would ever make such a serious allegation without knowing the facts.]
I absolutely affirm that the Diocese has harbored, and continues to harbor, priests who are sexual predators. I am outraged that Bishop Timlin has failed to protect young men and boys from these sexual predators when he had more than sufficient evidence to take the necessary disciplinary action. See my "Open Letter" to Bishop Timlin.
[The press release given out by an organization which calls itself Roman Catholic Faithful, Inc. contains egregious errors of fact to which no reasonable person should give any credence.]
Prior to this diocesan statement, Bishop Timlin admitted in a telephone call to James Bendell, attorney for Roman Catholic Faithful, that RCF’s press release was substantially correct.
[Whenever anyone has come forth with credible evidence of sexual misconduct, the Diocese would immediately investigate the allegations and would act properly in accord with our Diocesan Guidelines. To say the Diocese refused to take action is simply not true. No such instance occurs without an immediate meeting of the Clergy Review Board, an independent group of clergy and lay professionals who review the allegations.]
Bishop Timlin had credible evidence of sexual misconduct for years, but he chose to ignore it. This has been documented in my "Open Letter" to Bishop Timlin. Furthermore, Bishop Timlin failed to follow his own Diocesan Guidelines when, without having done adequate background checks, he allowed these priests to be chaplains at St. Gregory’s Academy, an all-boys high school. Finally, Bishop Timlin’s own "Clergy Review Board" utterly failed with respect to its judgment in 1999 concerning Fr. Urrutigoity. Could that be because these board members lack sufficient independence from Bishop Timlin’s authority? Are we now to believe that this same "Clergy Review Board" is qualified to judge the accusations against Fr. Ensey? Isn’t there a conflict of interest here? If these board members are truly independent, Bishop Timlin must, at the very least, publish their names and qualifications so that all may be assured of their objectivity.
[There have been allegations made against two priests of the Society of St. John. These priests deny these allegations. In accord with diocesan policy, however, they have left their posts until the investigation is completed and appropriate action is determined.]
Fr. Urrutigoity and Fr. Ensey are now receiving young men in Scranton instead of on their property in Shohola. These priests have not been subject to any canonical sanction. The fact that they have "left their posts" has done nothing to protect young men and boys from their depredations.
[As wrong as the alleged actions in this case might be, and, if true, they are very wrong, certainly it would also be wrong for the Church to pass judgment on individuals without sufficient evidence. Suffice it to say that the Church’s law and diocesan policies have been followed at all times and will continue to be adhered to until this unfortunate situation is resolved. There has never been any effort to cover up anything or to ignore the seriousness of these allegations.]
Does anyone believe this? See my "Open Letter" to Bishop Timlin.
[To say that a priest was being transferred to another religious community to go on corrupting the morals of others is false as false can be and deserves no credence whatsoever. That Bishop Timlin ignored these allegations is also false and malicious. No one who knows Bishop Timlin would ever question his moral courage.]
In my meeting with Bishop Timlin on October 4, 2001, he informed me that Fr. Urrutigoity had requested permission to leave the Society of St. John and join a contemplative order. Bishop Timlin then told me that he had given Fr. Urrutigoity permission to do so. Only after my letter of protest of October 27, 2001 did Bishop Timlin withdraw his permission. I hasten to add that I do know Bishop Timlin, and he is utterly deficient in moral courage.
[Calling for Bishop Timlin’s resignation is arrogance run wild. Bishop Timlin will tender his resignation to the Pope when he reaches 75 years old on August 5, 2002, as required by the laws of the Church. His resignation is a matter strictly between the Bishop and the Holy See, and these people have a nerve even suggesting such a thing because they think the Bishop did not do what they want him to do.]
Bishop Timlin’s failure to resign is arrogance run wild.
[Scranton Auxiliary Bishop John Dougherty is also outraged to see his name used in support of the statements in this release. He has asked that they cease quoting him incorrectly but to date they have not done so.]
I am outraged at Bishop Dougherty’s moral cowardice. He told me in a meeting on September 24, 2001 that Fr. Urrutigoity was "capable of pederasty at any time." Nonetheless, he sat back and did nothing. Now he appears to be denying he made this statement. A witness at the meeting on September 24, 2001 affirms that Bishop Dougherty did make this statement and the other statements attributed to him.
[As far as charges of financial mismanagement which have been made against the Society of St. John are concerned, the Diocese of Scranton has every reason to believe that the Society has exercised scrupulous care and restraint in this area for some time now.]
How could the Diocese of Scranton know this given Bishop Timlin’s failure to consult the Society’s bookkeeper about the accusations of financial mismanagement? What does the phrase "for some time now" signify? The last week? The last month? The last year? Bishop Timlin has failed to protect not only unsuspecting boys from the Society’s predatory practices, but also unsuspecting Catholic donors.
[Finally, Bishop Timlin is not being held hostage by anyone, and certainly not by the Society of St. John because of finances. It is ludicrous for anyone to suggest otherwise.]
Bishop Dougherty is the man who has suggested otherwise.
[Since these matters may be open to litigation, all further inquiries should be referred to our Diocesan Attorney.]
This statement provides cover for Bishop Timlin to remain silent, but does it serve the cause of justice and truth? Does Bishop Timlin think that legal threats will shield him from questions by those whom he is supposed to protect? Bishop Timlin has shown his readiness to wield his authority, but where is his moral authority?