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Sexually Abusive Priests Claim Slander; Several Are Dismissed From Ministry

As charges of abuse by Catholic priests increase in number, some priests are filing civil suits against their accusers for slander. Five cases have been filed since early July by priests against their alleged abuse victims, according to the New York Times. The Times reports that Catholic officials as well as victim support groups say that although the suits were filed independently, they appear to be part of a larger “counteroffensive” by priests accused of abuse. While lawyers for the priests say they are using these suits against those who make false accusations, victims’ advocates argue that these suits will be a deterrent to other abuse victims telling their stories. “People are going to see that if you come forward and allege that a priest abused you, instead of getting pastoral assistance, you’re going to get slapped with a lawsuit,” Sylvia Demarest, a Dallas lawyer for victims of priest abuse, told the Times. Meanwhile, a Catholic priest accused of raping a nun in the Philippines 19 years ago has been placed on leave by the Diocese of Dallas. Rev. Ernesto Villaroya admitted that he had a sexual relationship with the former nun and fathered her son, but claims the relationship was consensual, according to the Dallas Morning News. The former nun, Sylvia Abano Martinez Arambulo, says that after she gave birth to her son she was ostracized in the Philippines, and church officials told her to drop her case against the priest. Two other prominent Roman Catholic priests in Washington, D.C., have been dismissed from the ministry after being accused of sexually abusing minors. One of the men, Rev. Paul E. Lavin, is accused of molesting two boys more than 25 years ago, and the other, Monsignor Russell L. Dillard, is accused of molesting two sisters from 1979 to 1984, according to the Washington Post. Both priests, along with two dozen others across the country, have been removed from the ministry following the policy established by the nation’s bishops at a Dallas meeting in June. The policy calls for any priest convicted of abuse to be removed from his parish but not from the priesthood itself. All priests still retain the right to appeal their removal to the Vatican.

Sources:

Washington Post 8/27/02; New York Times 8/25/02; The Dallas Morning News 8/24/02

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