More snapshots of cases of Catholic Church transferring or moving priests accused of abuse

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

More snapshots of priests accused of abuse


Skelton was studying for the priesthood in Michigan in 1988 when he was convicted of sexual misconduct with a 15-year-old boy and dismissed from his seminary.

He went to the Philippines, where he was ordained a priest in 2001 in the diocese of Tagbilaran in Bohol province. Today, at 48, he is parochial vicar of St. Vincent Ferrer parish in the town of Calape, according to the diocese directory. Reached on his cell phone, Skelton declined to comment.

The bishop who ordained Skelton said he wouldn’t have made him a priest if he had known about the criminal conviction. But he added: “The priest is trying to live well. If he has really changed, the heart of the church is compassionate.”

The archdiocese of Detroit, after learning Skelton had been ordained, sent a letter about his conviction to then-Bishop Tumulak in early 2003. Tumulak said he doesn’t remember if he received the letter. In any case, he added, it would have been too late.

Informed of the case, current Bishop Leonardo Medroso said he would investigate. But he added: “He was convicted, and that means to say he has served already the conviction. So what obstacle can there be if he has already served his punishment or penalty?”


A lawsuit alleging sexual abuse by Maramba in the U.S. more than than 30 years ago was settled this month. The settlement was the third reached with the diocese of El Paso, Texas, and others in allegations of sexual abuse by the same Filipino priest.

Maramba’s lawyers said he was not party to the settlement.

“Since Father Maramba was not a party to the proceedings that resulted in the reported settlement, there is nothing to deny or admit other than that he was assigned to the parish of Las Cruces in 1976-77,” said the statement from the law firm Saguisag, Carao & Associates. “That a settlement was reached does not in any way indicate fault on the part of any party.”

Maramba served at St. Genevieve Church in Las Cruces, N.M., from 1976-77 and at the Newman Center in Silver City, N.M., before being recalled to the Philippines in 1977 by his abbey.


After Tamayo was accused of abusing Rita Milla in the Los Angeles area, the church urged Tamayo to stay in the Philippines and mailed him checks, court documents show.

Milla has maintained that she was molested by Tamayo at a church in Carson, Calif., when she was 16. After she turned 18, she said, she had sexual intercourse with Tamayo and he introduced her to six other priests who also abused her.

After she was impregnated in 1982 by another priest at a Los Angeles-area church, Milla said, Tamayo suggested she get an abortion, then devised a plan to send her to the Philippines to have the child.

Milla returned to California after giving birth to her daughter, Jacqueline. She sued the archdiocese in 1984, and won a $500,000 settlement.

Tamayo later went to the Philippines. In 2004, Milla’s lawyer released documents showing the church mailed him checks. In three letters, church officials advised him not to reveal the source of the payments “unless requested under oath,” noting that he was “liable for personal suits arising out of your past actions.”

Tamayo admitted he had sex with Milla and publicly apologized years before his death in 1999.


Woodcock accused of molesting at least 11 boys at four different church facilities in New Zealand before being sent by the church to Ireland.

He was extradited to New Zealand in 2004, pleaded guilty to 21 sexual abuse charges involving 11 victims and was sentenced to seven years in jail. He was paroled in September 2009.

Society of Mary spokeswoman Lyndsay Freer told the AP “some families (of Woodcock’s victims) asked for him to be sent offshore … he was sent to Ireland for intensive psychotherapy. He had no permission to exercise his ministry or to be involved with youth.”

Woodcock was suspended from his ministry in the New Zealand branch of the Society of Mary in 1987, according to Freer. He was removed from the priesthood in 2001, she said.


Brothers Moloney and McGrath of the Australian branch of the St. John of God Order were both jailed in New Zealand for the sexual abuse of scores of children at a special school in the southern city of Christchurch in the 1970s. The order had transferred them to Australia, but they were extradited back to New Zealand by police to face sexual abuse charges.

Moloney was sentenced in 2008 to two years and nine months, and becomes eligible for parole later this month. At that time, the St. John of God Order said he will be deported to Australia.

“He’s a brother (in the order) but won’t have any active ministry. He will be in a retirement home,” the order’s spokesman, Simon Feely, told the AP.

St. John of God shifted McGrath to Australia “before the prison term and prior to the order knowing of any court case (over abuse charges),” Feely told the AP.

“McGrath was sacked by the (St. John of God) brothers several years ago. He is not a member of the order. They removed him,” Feely said.

McGrath was found guilty of 22 charges against nine victims aged 7 to 15 and sentenced to five years in 2006. He was paroled in February 2008, and reportedly is living in New Zealand.


Jeyapaul has been charged in Minnesota with two counts of criminal sexual conduct in connection with his work at a small church in the Crookston diocese in 2004-05. The charges stem from accusations that he groped a 14-year-old girl and forced her to perform oral sex on him.

Jeyapaul returned to India before the charges were filed and continues to work in the diocese of Ootacamund. After initially saying he would not return to the U.S. to face the charges, he and his bishop have since said they would go back if his extradition was requested.


Nelson was convicted in a New York court in 2003 of fondling a 12-year-old altar girl in the Brooklyn diocese. He was sentenced to four months in prison and has since returned to his church in the diocese of Kottar in southern India, where he works in the bishop’s office.


Godugunuru was forced to return to his native India and then transferred to Italy after pleading no contest to assaulting a 15-year-old girl in Bonifay, Fla. He now ministers to a parish in a medieval town of about 4,000 in Tuscany, where he hears confessions, celebrates Mass and works with children.

The bishops supervising him said they were aware of the case but believed he was innocent.

“The evidence that has been given does not support the accusation,” Monsignor Rodolfo Cetoloni, the bishop of the Montepulciano diocese, told the AP last week.

Cetoloni said he saw no reason for any restrictions.

Godugunuru was charged with fondling a parishioner in her family’s van on June 23, 2006. The priest had been visiting friends and was allowed by the diocese to assist at the Blessed Trinity Catholic Church in Bonifay.

The priest was arrested the next month on charges of lewd or lascivious battery on a minor, subject to up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The priest denied the accusation but pleaded no contest in a deal that required him to return to India, undergo counseling, not supervise minors for a year and not return to the United States.


The 75-year-old Pezzotti was accused in abuse cases that date from 1959 at a now-closed Holliston, Mass., boarding school run by his Xaverian religious order.

Allegations against him surfaced in early 1993, but Pezzotti had already been sent to a remote area of Brazil’s Amazon to work as a missionary with the Kayapo Indians in 1970. Pezzotti was removed from Brazil for good and sent to Italy in 2008 after photos of him holding naked Kayapo children surfaced on the Internet, prompting one of his American victims — Joseph Callander — to contact the church and demand his removal.

In a 1993 handwritten note of apology from Pezzotti to Callander, the priest admitted passing “through a rather difficult moment” in the 1960s, and said he “asked to leave Holliston and to go to Brazil to change my life.”

“Upon my arrival in Brazil, confiding in God’s mercy, I owned up to the problem,” Pezzotti said.

Pezzotti now lives in the headquarters of his order in Parma, Italy. Reached by telephone, he declined comment.

“I don’t see why I have to talk about it. Everything was resolved and I don’t feel like talking,” Pezzotti said.


Brazilian police in Salvador in August 2009 said they were seeking Piazza’s arrest on abuse allegations made by eight boys. Police also accuse him of allowing foreign visitors to abuse boys.

Piazza ran an award-winning shelter for homeless children.

After three decades in Brazil, Piazza left in 2007 for missionary work in Mozambique. Brazilian prosecutors say Piazza has refused to respond to the charges.

Interviewed in Maputo, Mozambique, this week, Piazza said the charges were false and part of a campaign to blackmail him by “political circles” in Brazil that he did not identify.

“This is propaganda in order to earn money,” Piazza told the AP, saying people in Brazil had asked him for money.

He said he has been in Mozambique for about seven months living in a Jesuit residence and helping with “economic projects.” He said he was not working with children.

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