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A predator priest, who became infamous in the United States for homosexual grooming and abuse, got his start in the Society of St. Pius X, which accepted him, trained him, ordained him and gave him a teaching position — in spite of knowledge of his homosexual predation.
The protection and promotion of a young Carlos Urrutigoity involved no fewer than three SSPX bishops — Alfonso de Galarreta, Richard Williamson and Marcel Lefebvre — while the whistleblower who reported on his predation was expelled from the Society.
The circumstances lead one to question the involvement of Lefebvre — founder of the Society — in this affair, as he had complete knowledge of Urrutigoity's predation in the seminary, but gave the green light for him to be ordained a priest of the SSPX.
"Carlos Urrutigoity has been formally accused of homosexual molestation in three different places, yet each time he has managed to evade justice by enlisting episcopal support," wrote Dr. Jeffrey Bond, who once taught for the Society of St. John but left after learning about the true character of the priest he once trusted.
Urrutigoity came to the SSPX Seminary of Our Lady, Co-Redemptrix in La Reja, Argentina in the 1980s. Father Andres Morello, rector from 1981–1988, oversaw the student during his entire tenure there, eventually wanting to expel him after learning of numerous acts of homosexual grooming and predation with fellow seminarians.
The rector, however, was blocked by Argentina's district superior, Bp. Alfonso de Galarreta, who, knowing of the charges of homosexual predation, disregarded them and instead transferred him to the priory in Cordoba.
But even there, Urrutigoity caused problems, where he evidenced troubling behavior — which de Galarreta again overlooked, instead allowing the homosexual predator to "rehabilitate" his image and receive a recommendation to study at the SSPX seminary in Winona, Minnesota.
On learning that Urrutigoity desired to enter the Winona seminary, Morello flew to the United States to denounce him in person.
"His imminent ordination to the major orders obliged me in conscience to write a confidential report to the rector of Winona's seminary, Bishop Williamson, in order to stop the ordination," Morello wrote. "Bishop Williamson made it known to the then-seminarian Urrutigoity so that he could defend himself from our accusations."
"On July 1989 we traveled to Winona, and Bishop Williamson read to us the defense of Father Urrutigoity, defended his 'humility' and accused us of lying," Morello explained. "A few days later, on July 16, 1989, I was expelled from the Society."
Urrutigoity would go on to be ordained a priest, even teaching at the Winona seminary, under the protection of Bp. Richard Williamson.
"[It's] indisputable that, from the early days of SSPX, there was an atmosphere of complacency toward the vice of homosexuality within the two mentioned seminaries of the organization," wrote author Patrick Odou.
Urrutigoity's misconduct was documented in a dossier signed by priests and seminarians from La Reja and sent to Abp. Marcel Lefebvre, as part of Morello's request to launch a canonical investigation into Urrutigoity and certain SSPX clergy:
During his stay in the seminary of La Reja, this seminarian was denounced by a young layman who lives in the seminary, for the following reasons which became most serious as the time passed. Frequently the seminarian brought up in conversation the subject of chastity. He asked him if he had temptations and what did he do in such cases. Also he asked him whether he was a virgin, or if he performed dishonest acts alone or with women.
In a particular conversation he asked him if he went to the movies, and if the films excited him provoking temptations. The lad answered yes, and Urrutigoity asked if this prompted him to search for women, to which the young man replied again yes. Then the seminarian asked if he would consider making the dishonest act with a man. The lad said no.
The dossier notes that Urrutigoity would visit the seminarian at night, in his most vulnerable state, in order to take advantage of him:
The same witness denounced as well the seminarian for entering his room without knocking previously. One night at about 3:00 AM he woke up and found him inside the room uncovering him. The excuse that Urrutigoity gave next day was that he had entered the room in order to cover him. Before this situation the lad went to Father Canale, a priest whom he trusted. He laughed and said to him: "The only thing I can tell you is to lock the door." Father Canale was therefore fully aware of the situation and he never talked about it with the superior of the house.
The witness says also that on one occasion the seminarian entered into his room and, finding him in bed, told him that he had a fever. The lad replied that he was feeling well, but Urrutigoity insisted that he had a fever and that in order to confirm it he was going to fondle his genitals to see if they were inflamed, and he did it.
One day Carlos Urrutigoity gave him underwear, insisted that he should get naked and try it on before him to see if it fit. He proposed that he take measurements every week of his physical development, naked and with his back towards the wall, which the young man refused to do.
He gave him a shot and insisted on massaging his buttocks, which he did.
Global Post reporter confronting Fr. Urrutigoity in Argentina in 2018.
The dossier concludes by making clear other acts of homosexual predation took place but were not included in the report:
We finish here the testimony of the young man, and we wish to make it clear that these are not all the incidents, just those which we consider more relevant.
A seminarian declares that being in the restroom he touched him in his private parts, and that often he told him things about the private parts, among others that "he adored his buttocks" (the seminarian had not yet received the soutane). He said: "I adore your little round butt" (and made a gesture with his hands).
Another seminarian tells us that he asked him about the sexual life of his past and about his present temptations.
After Morello reported this misconduct to Bp. de Galarreta and asked that Urrutigoity be expelled, instead, the bishop transferred the seminarian to the priory in Cordoba, 400 miles away. There, the bishop — with full knowledge of Urrutigoity's track record — allowed him to host an all-male summer camp:
Two traditional young laymen declare that during a summer camp organized by Carlos Urrutigoity — with the inexplicable authorization of Bishop de Galarreta, who knew about the situation, and while the seminarian was in the priory of Cordoba under observation because of his disciplinary problems — he went to the river with a group of young men. There he removed his clothes before the others and remained in underwear. One of the youngsters offered immediately a swimming suit which Urrutigoity rejected, and in such attire he bathed in the river.
De Galarreta did not expel him because of the problems this could cause, especially with the Calderon family.
Overlooking this conduct, de Galarreta allowed Urrutigoity to "rehabilitate" his image in Cordoba, where he received his needed recommendation to enter the seminary in Winona, Minnesota — where he would go on to sexually abuse again, this time under the watch of Bp. Richard Williamson.
Instead of believing Morello's testimony, Williamson chalked it up to rival factions in La Reja. Morello supported sedevacantism, while de Galarreta opposed this position. Urrutigoity took advantage of the civil war by claiming Morello was "persecuting" him for opposing his sedevacantist views and that the charges of homosexual misconduct were "trumped up."
Thus Williamson championed Urrutigoity's cause, managing to convince Abp. Marcel Lefebvre to admit him to the U.S. seminary in spite of his misgivings.
"Bishop Williamson then presented Archbishop Lefebvre himself with Urrutigoity's written defense," Bond explained. "According to Bishop Williamson, Archbishop Lefebvre, after reading Urrutigoity's defense, told Bishop Williamson to admit Urrutigoity to the seminary, but to 'watch him like a hawk.'"
Lefebvre agreed to let Urrutigoity into the seminary despite the detailed dossier from Morello, a dossier that concluded with this plea:
We ask your forgiveness, Father, for writing about these unpleasant issues, but we consider it necessary since nobody has heard our complaints. What worries us right now is that (a) the superiors know about this situation. Not only was the seminarian not expelled, but the solution to his moral and disciplinary problems is simply to send him to another seminary; (b) Carlos Urrutigoity is about to receive major orders in Winona, USA; (c) a serious investigation was never started.
We are worried and scandalized by all this. We have tried by all means to inchoate an investigation to no avail. Bishop de Galarreta made it impossible to take measures against him, and despite the fact that he now acknowledges his mistake, he still does nothing to repair it.
Too late did Galarreta, Williamson and Lefebvre come to realize Morello had been right all along.
"Note also that even those who initially found themselves on opposite sides, such as Bishop Williamson and Fr. Morello, are now all agreed on at least one thing: Carlos Urrutigoity is a homosexual predator," Bond wrote.
As noted above, Morello — the whistleblower on Urrutigoity's homosexual predation — was expelled from the Society only days after he gave his testimony against Urrutigoity in Winona in 1989.
As author Odou asked, "Did Bishop Williamson have enough power to expel Fr. Morello — the rector of an important seminary — from the SSPX? Or did he consult Arch. Lefebvre? It seems normal that in such an important issue, the SSPX supreme leader should have the last word."
"Then, if the answer to this question is positive, we would come to the unpleasant conclusion that Msgr. Lefebvre himself protected — radically protected and promoted — the homosexual Urrutigoity in order to make him a priest and expelled Fr. Morello, who correctly demanded sanctions be taken against him," Odou wrote.
Ten years later — after Urrutigoity had already been expelled from the SSPX for "subversive" activities (he was discovered secretly forming the Society of St. John) — Williamson accompanied a young SSPX seminarian to Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he testified before the bishop that Urrutigoity had sexually abused him.
"This young seminarian, with whom Fr. Urrutigoity had had a very close particular friendship at Winona, had been under Fr. Urrutigoity's spiritual direction for two years before Fr. Urrutigoity molested him," Williamson explained to Bond.
Incidentally, it was Bp. Bernard Fellay who had put Bp. James Timlin of Scranton on notice of Urrutigoity's conduct, on learning he was seeking a new home in Timlin's diocese.
Urrutigoity's later maneuvers are well known. Timlin kicked Urrutigoity out of Scranton and his successor, Bp. Joseph Martino, suppressed the Society of St. John, after evidence that Urrutigoity was grooming and abusing boys while temporarily staying at St. Gregory's Academy, run by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter.
The priest afterwards found refuge in the diocese of Ciudad del Este, under Bp. Rogelio Livieres Plano. The bishop made Urrutigoity his second-in-command and allowed the Society of St. John to be reconstituted.
When news of the predator's presence reached Catholics in Paraguay, the backlash was intense, eventually leading to Plano and Urrutigoity's removal from their posts by Pope Francis in 2014.
He was named as an accused predator on pages 880–82 of the 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report, which include allegations that he "had made it a practice to sleep in the same bed with boys and young men." A victim's father later brought allegations of sex abuse against Urrutigoity, who was investigated by the district attorney but could not be prosecuted because the statute of limitations had passed. A civil lawsuit resulted in paying the alleged victim $380,000.
After Paraguay, Urrutigoity returned to Argentina, where he continues to offer Mass and serve as a priest to this day.
Morello went on to found the sedevacantist Company of Jesus and Mary, an association that strives to live out the ideal of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Company of Jesus (Jesuits).
Williamson eventually broke from the SSPX to form the Resistance, welcoming other dissatisfied SSPX clergy (including a number of sexual predators).
De Galarreta was promoted to the prestigious role of first assistant to the superior general, a post he holds to this day.
"I went from being a kid who thought about becoming a priest to being a kid who lost his faith," said one of Urrutigoity's victims in 2018. "I've probably been to Mass twice since 2000, and each time it was for a funeral."
As is the story with a number of other sexual predators who first found their start in the SSPX, going on to leave a trail of devastation in their wake, Society leadership at the highest levels repeatedly turned a blind eye to Urrutigoity's offenses, giving him opportunities to offend again and again. How different the story would have been for the young men's lives harmed by his abuse had SSPX bishops taken seriously the allegations of homosexual predation more than three decades ago.
Instead, three SSPX bishops were complicit, in varying degrees, in protecting and promoting a homosexual predator, while punishing the priest who tried to expose him.
While media coverage has largely focused the blame on Bp. Timlin for ignoring Urrutigoity's misconduct, the lion's share of responsibility lies at the feet of the SSPX, without whose aid and protection the predator never would have gotten a start.