Photo Credits: SCD.org
ProPublica, a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power, released a new report that dozens of priests who were credibly accused of sexual abuse found new homes in foreign countries.
ProPublica and the Houston Chronicle analyzed lists published by 52 U.S. dioceses and encompassed the top 30 in terms of the number of credibly accused living clergy and those located in states along the U.S.-Mexico border. Reporters found 51 clergy who after allegations of abuse in the U.S. were able to work as priests or religious brothers in a host of countries, from Ireland to Nigeria to the Philippines. At least 40 had worked in U.S. states along the southern border, including 11 in Texas. No country was a more common destination than Mexico, where at least 21 credibly accused clergy found refuge.
The Reverend Jose Antonio Pinal, who raped a 15-years-old altar boy Ricardo Torres in California in 1980s, was put on its list of credibly accused priests in the spring of 2019. An investigation by ProPublica and the Houston Chronicle shows the Catholic Church allowed or aided dozens of priests — including Pinal — to serve abroad as priests after being credibly accused of abuse in the United States. Pinal now lives in Cuernavaca, about 55 miles south of Mexico City.
As the ProPublica reports, in an interview at his home and in a subsequent series of email exchanges, Pinal repeatedly denied sexually abusing Torres or that he “fled” California. But in some of the emails, he commented about what “happened” between him and Torres on a trip he took with Torres. Pinal said, “It was screwed up, but whatever happened was consensual.”
Pinal (now 68) ministered from his home and enjoyed a warm correspondence with the then-Sacramento bishop and officials in charge of Hispanic ministry, who in the months after the allegations advised him to work in Mexico for a “long period (5-6 years)” before returning to the United States. Letters from the bishop were signed “con cariño,” or with affection.
“This was a grave failure of judgment and a betrayal of trust,” the current Sacramento bishop, Jaime Soto, said after correspondence between his predecessor and Pinal was released to Torres’ attorney through litigation. “The safety of children is our highest priority. In 1989, those in leadership failed to do so. I must own and atone for this.”
The Archdiocese of San Antonio included the Rev. Jose Luis Contreras on its list of credibly accused priests released in 2019 — more than 30 years after he was accused of inappropriately touching a 17-year-old male patient while serving as a chaplain at a San Antonio hospital, according to the archdiocese.