Catholic priest held on child sex abuse charge

Arch­dio­cese gets mu­ti­ple re­ports

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY JU­LIA AIREY

D.C. po­lice have ar­rested a Catholic priest and charged him with sex­u­ally as­sault­ing a child.

Met­ro­pol­i­tan Po­lice on Wed­nes­day ar­rested the Rev. Ur­bano Vazquez, 46, on charges of sec­ond-de­gree child sex­ual abuse.

Father Vazquez was the parochial vicar at the Shrine of the Sa­cred Heart par­ish in Columbia Heights.

The Arch­dio­cese of Wash­ing­ton said Wed­nes­day that it sus­pended Father Vazquez last month af­ter it learned of an as­sault al­le­ga­tion against him. The Or­der of Fri­ars Mi­nor Ca­puchin, which over­sees Sa­cred Heart par­ish, re­ported the al­leged in­ci­dent Oct. 26 to the arch­dio­cese, which then in­formed D.C. Met­ro­pol­i­tan Po­lice.

“This was the first re­port to the arch­dio­cese of this al­le­ga­tion of sex­ual abuse,” the arch­dio­cese said in a writ­ten state­ment. “Since the ini­tial claim to po­lice, ad­di­tional al­le­ga­tions against Father Vazquez were re­ported.”

The arch­dio­cese said it also re­moved Sa­cred Heart’s pas­tor, the Rev. Moises Vil­lalta, say­ing he “failed to fol­low ap­pro­pri­ate pro­to­cols re­lated to re­port­ing al­le­ga­tions of abuse to civil au­thor­i­ties and the Arch­dio­cese of Wash­ing­ton.” Sa­cred Heart’s child pro­tec­tion co­or­di­na­tor also was sus­pended.

Father Vazquez had served as a priest at Sa­cred Heart since 2014.

Early last month, the arch­dio­cese re­leased a list of 31 priests who had been “cred­i­bly ac­cused” of sex­u­ally abus­ing mi­nors in D.C.-area churches. Most of those abuse cases dated back sev­eral decades, and only three were af­ter 2000. Six­teen of the 31 priests have died.

The al­le­ga­tions against Father Vazquez emerged af­ter the arch­dio­cese re­leased the list.

The arch­dio­cese re­cently has been rocked by scan­dals in­volv­ing its two most re­cent arch­bish­ops over in­ci­dents that did not oc­cur in the Arch­dio­cese of Wash­ing­ton.

Car­di­nal Don­ald W. Wuerl re­signed as arch­bishop last month over al­le­ga­tions that he cov­ered up sex­ual abuse charges against priests when he was bishop of Pitts­burgh. Pope Fran­cis has asked him to re­main in the post un­til a re­place­ment is cho­sen.

Last sum­mer, Theodore E. McCar­rick re­signed from the Col­lege of Car­di­nals over al­le­ga­tions that he had sex­u­ally abused young men dur­ing his ten­ure as a New York priest and a New Jersey bishop. He re­port­edly is liv­ing in a fri­ary in Kansas and is await­ing a for­mal Vat­i­can trial.

Late last month, D.C. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Karl Racine an­nounced that his of­fice had launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of sex­ual abuse by clergy in the arch­dio­cese.

His of­fice can­not bring charges against preda­tor priests be­cause the U.S. at­tor­ney’s of­fice holds ju­ris­dic­tion over all felony cases in the District.

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