Two Filipino priests figure in widening sex scandal

On the lam: Fr. Edmundo Paredes

CHICAGO — Two U.S-based Filipino priests were implicated in a widening sex scandal in the Catholic Church just few days after a grand jury report released early last month in Pennsylvania said 300 Roman Catholic priests had sexually abused more than 1,000 children in the state over the past 70 years.

The southwest Chicago suburban diocese of Joliet will pay $1.4 million to settle a lawsuit filed by three men who claimed having been molested by Fr. Leonardo Mateo, their priest in 1980 to 1982, when the alleged victims were under 11 years old, it was reported on Aug. 30.

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Earlier on Aug. 26, after the Mass at St. Cecilia Catholic Church in Oak Cliff, a suburb of Dallas, Texas, the parishioners were told that their former priest, Fr. Edmundo Paredes is being sought by police authorities for allegedly molesting three teenage boys in the parish more than 10 years ago.

Reports are that the priest has fled to the Philippines, Dallas Bishop Edward Burns revealed after that Sunday Mass.

Fr. Paredes, who was a pastor at St. Cecilia for 27 years, admitted last year of stealing up to $80,000 from the church coffer, was removed from his position in June 2017.

Saint Cecilia Catholic Church in Oak Cliff, Texas.

Fr. Mateo joined the Joliet diocese in 1977 and shortly after, he befriended an 8-year-old boy and his 6-year-old brother; they were later joined by a 10-year-old friend.

The complaint stated that the priest would buy them ice cream and would bring them for swimming at the local YMCA.

He allegedly would later lure them to his bedroom at the parish house and would abuse them for a period of two years.

After the parents of the two young boys made a complaint against Fr. Mateo, the priest was transferred to a church in Glyn Ellen, Illinois. His church superiors asked them to keep silent about the incidents telling them that Fr.  Mateo was suicidal and that they were seeking treatment for him.

“This is a priest who was continuously moved from one parish to the next upon allegations of sexual misconduct, normalizing his sexual abuse of children and dispelling any notion it was wrong,” plaintiff’s attorney Antonio M. Romanucci said.

Fr. Mateo left the Joliet diocese in 1984 and it was reported that he died in his native Philippines in 2004.

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According to the Joliet Diocese, 35 diocesan priests have had substantiated or credible allegations of sexual abuse of minors made against them since 1986. Most have been removed from ministry and others have died.

The three complainants first raised their allegations against the priest in 2014.

Attorneys for the three men say Joliet Bishop Joseph Imesch, who died in 2015, reported in a deposition that priests with credible sexual abuse allegations had been allowed to continue ministry within the Diocese of Joliet without any warning to parishioners.

Bishop Imesch in Kankakee in 2006

Bishop Imesh’s 27-year tenure was tarnished by numerous allegations of cover-ups of clergy sexual abuse. He retired in 2006.

As part of the settlement, the diocese is not required to admit wrongdoing in the case.

In a conference call with his attorney, Martin Gould, and a Chicago Tribune reporter, one of the victims identified only as John Doe C, said the abuse shattered his trust in priests and led to a lifelong struggle with drugs and alcohol, The Tribune reported on Aug. 31.

“People need to come forward, because that’s what’s going to stop (the abuse) or curb it,” John Doe C told the Tribune. “The only way the church is going to do anything is if more of these people come forward and then maybe they’ll start enforcing their zero-tolerance policy like they should.”

Also late August, in Indiana, the Diocese of Gary published on its website a list of 10 priests who had served in the diocese and had “been found guilty of credible actions of sexual molestation of minors.” The list included their names, the number of allegations against them, and the actions taken by the diocese.

On Aug. 25, the former Vatican Ambassador to the U.S., the retired conservative Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano issued an 11-page memo critical of Pope Francis, accusing the Pontiff, among other things, of putting under wrap allegations of pedophilia involving officials Pope Francis had appointed to high positions.

Chicago Archbishop, Cardinal Blasé Cupich came out with a passionate defense of Pope Francis citing inaccuracies in the controversial memo. The Pope remained silent, telling reporters “the memo speaks for itself.”

An observer called these recent developments, “A Church in a civil war.”

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TAGS: Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, Catholic church strife, child abuse, church sex scandal, Fr. Edmundo Paredes, Fr. Leonardo Mateo, Joliet Bishop Joseph Imesch, Mariano “Anong” Santos, priest sex scandals, sex abuse, St. Cecilia Catholic Church in Oak Cliff
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