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15 Spanish priests accused of abuses in the US that made them lose their trail


Highlights: The information made public by the dioceses and North American newspapers brings to light unknown cases in Spain. Many of them of clerics who later returned to their places of origin. Six other American and foreign priests, also denounced for pedophilia, passed through our country. EL PAÍS launched in 2018 an investigation of pedophilia in the Spanish Church and has an updated database with all known cases. If you know of any case that has not seen the light, you can write to:

The information made public by the dioceses and North American newspapers brings to light unknown cases in Spain, many of them of clerics who later returned to their places of origin. Six other American and foreign priests, also denounced for pedophilia, passed through our country

EL PAÍS launched in 2018 an investigation of pedophilia in the Spanish Church and has an updated database with all known cases. If you know of any case that has not seen the light, you can write to: If it is a case in Latin America, the address is:


Manuel Fernández is a Galician priest who was ordained in 1959 and ended up in New Jersey (USA) in 1979. In 2002, he was accused of child abuse, which occurred in the eighties, and was removed from his post. Then he returned to his diocese, that of Ourense, where he remained a priest quietly, without anyone, in theory, knowing about his past. The bishopric did not take special measures, he says today, because there is no record of knowing anything about his background on the other side of the ocean. It is a case unknown until now in Spain, like many others, of Spanish priests and religious who have been accused of pedophilia in the United States in recent years, without transcending, or being hidden, and who have certainly never appeared here on the radar of the media. EL PAÍS discovered a first case in 2018, one of the most terrible, that of Francisco Carreras, sent to Salamanca from Miami with the warning of his dangerousness in 1984, but who was committing abuses from town to town for three decades.

In some cases these clerics returned to Spain, sometimes fleeing, and lost their trail. This newspaper has identified a total of 15 Spanish priests with recognized accusations or convictions, and another five accused, who have not been included in this article, whose investigations have not been conclusive or the corresponding dioceses have not considered the facts proven. The information has been gathered in the data disseminated by the bishoprics themselves and the American media, as well as in databases of abuses in the Church that have surfaced in two decades in this country.

Similarly, there are American clerics or clerics from other countries accused in the United States who at some point have landed in Spain. This newspaper has counted six cases. In this way, the puzzle of abuses in the Spanish Church is completed with a new piece, in which hidden information laboriously comes to light, without orders and dioceses hardly collaborating so that the truth is known. And they almost never do it on their own initiative.

The case of Bolivia, where in recent weeks up to six Spanish Jesuits accused of abuse have emerged, following the diary of Alfonso Pedrajas, uncovered by EL PAÍS, indicates that sometimes the reasons for the transfer to another country were precisely an accusation of abuses in Spain. But in several cases in the United States it also worked the other way around: they escaped to Spain after receiving complaints and here they arrived with a clean file. In theory, the diocese of departure should inform the destination of what happened, but in many cases it is already difficult to clarify who concealed the accusations. It is also difficult to determine if it was not warned from the United States or if it was known here and nothing was done. In any case, in Spain the trace of several clerics is lost, since it has been impossible to determine their diocese of origin to ask for explanations. Of course, it is information that the Church knows, and could reveal if it wanted.

The oldest case concerns one of the most prominent religious: Segundo Llorente, born in 1906 in a town in León, Jesuit evangelizer of Alaska, leader of the indigenous community who even became a deputy for a district in the House of Representatives of Alaska. But its image in Spain remains impeccable. Among the Jesuits he is a legendary figure and has a Wikipedia entry with his achievements, but without any mention of abuse allegations.

There are more cases from decades ago of priests who left as very young missionaries for the United States and lived the rest of their lives there. But others are more recent and had round trips. They chose to go to Spain as a way of escape. In several of these cases, the mystery continues here, in the face of the silence of the dioceses. The priest Jesús García, for example, was accused of abuse in 1995 in Texas, and went to Spain, where he landed in the diocese of Alcalá de Henares and was in different parishes. This bishopric does not clarify the case and only responds that it has informed the Ombudsman and the Spanish Episcopal Conference about it.

A case that illustrates the other phenomenon, foreign priests accused in the United States who end up in Spain, is that of Peruvian Edgardo Arrunategui Jiménez. After being accused in California, he left the country, lost track and managed to settle in parishes in Madrid between 2004 and 2008, sometimes changing his name. The archdiocese of Madrid now confirms that he was here, but arrived from Peru, his original diocese, without any negative report. He states that there are no complaints against him here. Then it disappeared again.

All are publicly unknown cases in Spain, lost among the thousands that have emerged in the Church in the United States since the scandal broke in 2002 in the wake of the Boston Globe investigation. Since then, numerous media and victims' organizations have published tons of information about hidden cases, and in these years databases have been configured, such as Bishop Accountability, where all the accused priests and religious appear.

In Spain, this operation has been carried out by EL PAÍS since 2018, given the refusal of the Church to reveal what it knows and make its information public. The database of this newspaper, opened in April 2021 and the only one existing in Spain, brings together all the cases that have come to light, through media, judicial sentences or admitted by the Church, and at this moment counts 959 accused with 1922 victims. When this newspaper began its work, only 34 cases were known. The Ombudsman, commissioned by Congress, began an investigation a year ago into pedophilia in the Spanish Church, but his report will still take time, it has no deadline. Similarly, the Spanish Episcopal Conference commissioned an internal audit to a law firm, led by a member of Opus Dei, which announced its report in October. Although the Episcopal Conference assures that dioceses and orders have provided the information they have, it remains to be seen if their degree of transparency will be up to the parameter of the United States, which right now is light years away. It is verified in the information that has emerged of Spanish priests in that country.

In the United States, unlike Spain, the Catholic Church launched a major transparency operation in 2004 that led to an avalanche of data. The Episcopal Conference there ordered an investigation by a lay council, which commissioned a statistical study from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, of the City University of New York. The base was the data provided by the dioceses themselves on the period 1950-2002. The conference also forced them to make their archives public and the dioceses disseminated lists with names and surnames. The end result was that 4,392 priests had been accused in the past, 4% of the clergy, for 10,667 victims. Only 5% had been denounced in court, and the rest remained hidden.

It was just the beginning. Journalistic investigations and denunciations continued to bring names to light, and that allowed to cross data, follow the trail of cures that changed places when they were discovered. Among them, there were also Spaniards, or defendants who arrived in Spain. Below are the clergy listed as accused, denounced, or convicted in U.S. records. In total, there are 21: 15 Spaniards and six foreigners who passed through Spain at some point. Information has been requested from all the North American dioceses involved, but very few have responded.

Born in 1949, he was ordained in 1977 and arrived three years later in the diocese of Tucson, Arizona. A man accused her in 2002 of sexually abusing him. After that lawsuit, a year later, he received another accusation from a minor in 1982, while confessing. He was arrested in 2003. He admitted the accusations and was sentenced to five years in prison. His votes were withdrawn in 2010. He appears on the Tucson diocese's 2019 list of priests with credible allegations.

He was a Spanish Jesuit, philosopher and writer. At the age of 13 he entered the diocesan seminary of León. He studied Philosophy in Granada and Humanities in Salamanca. He arrived in Alaska in 1935, where he worked for four decades in remote villages in the territory, learned their language and won their affection. To the point that he was a state deputy in the Alaska Congress – the first Catholic priest to be part of a US legislature – and is considered a co-founder of that state. He died in 1989 and was buried in an Indian cemetery in De Smet, Idaho, where only Native Americans can be buried at their request. He was also named favorite son of his hometown of León. His image began to darken in 2004, when he was accused of abuse between 1956 and 1957. According to the complaint, Llorente invited a six- or seven-year-old boy to his home more than four times after the catechetical class. In 2005, he was accused by another victim. Both cases received financial compensation from the Church, but he still has two other claims pending. He is included in the list of Jesuits with credible accusations published by the Western Province of the Society of Jesus in the United States in 2018.

Born in 1929, he was ordained in 1961, it is unknown if he was in Spain or already in Florida. There he was accused of sexually abusing a child repeatedly in 1965. The lawsuit was filed in 2005 and settled by the Diocese of St. Augustine with a payment of $150,000. In 2008, he received another lawsuit. According to the American Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), "Mena repeatedly caressed, sodomized and forced the child to perform oral sex on him" during the seventies. Again, in 2009, another victim sued him again. After the first accusations in 2005, he was removed from his post and returned to Spain, although as his diocese of origin is not recorded, it is unknown where he returned and if measures were taken with him or he maintained contact with minors.

He is listed as John in U.S. records, but he is actually John and sometimes appears as Vincent. It was ordained in 1934, it is unknown if in Spain or already in the United States. He was parish priest in the city of Antón Chico (New Mexico) and also a missionary in small towns in that state. In 1995, a 51-year-old man accused Peris of sexually abusing him for several months in 1975. According to the chronicle collected by the local media, the plaintiff was 13 years old at the time and lived in the parish of Antón Chico to be able to take the school bus, which passed far from his town. Peris returned somewhere in Spain after the complaint and would have died. He appears on the list of defendants published by the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.

Andrew Roy is actually the Spaniard Andres Rodriguez. In 2003, a resident of Richmond, Virginia, filed a lawsuit against the state diocese for five million dollars, which was eventually dismissed. He said those responsible were aware that Roy, a priest in Hopewel, had abused him between 1962 and 1966 and did nothing about it. At the time, the victim was about 10 years old and an altar boy. The plaintiff said the church sex abuse scandal that erupted in Boston in 2002 sparked memories of Rodriguez's abuse, sometimes at the parish itself and sometimes at the city's elementary school. Available data from Rodriguez indicate he was ordained in 1936 in Los Angeles. He came to Virginia in 1956 and continued to practice until his retirement in 1981. In 2004, after being accused, he was already living in Spain, the precise place is unknown. He was 92 years old and suffered from Alzheimer's, according to the Diocese of Virginia.

He was born in Spain in 1892 and ordained in 1909. He was the first Augustinian to go to the United States, and for most of his 55 years of priesthood he was a chapter delegate of the Augustinian Recollects in that country. He spent three decades in Omaha, Nebraska, and in 1957 was transferred to Atwater, California, where he was accused of sexually abusing a minor between 1958 and 1960, the 2004 Archdiocese of Los Angeles report revealed. The priest had already died in 2004. The report explained that he was once dismissed and reassigned to a provincial office for three years. The abuse victims' organization SNAP called on the archbishop to release information about Salinas to Nebraska Catholics: "This predator spent over 1972 years in Nebraska, so it's foolish to think he assaulted children in California but never in Omaha." Salinas died in 30, after being hit by a car in Los Angeles. He appears on the Diocese of Los Angeles' list of accused abuse officers.

Born in Delika, Álava, in 1941, he was ordained in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 1971. He is accused of drugging and raping a child in a hotel in Ensenada in the late seventies and of abusing a 1983-year-old boy in 17, as it came to light in 2013 when the archives of the archbishopric were opened and hidden documentation surfaced. In the first case, the child ended up in shock. The priest said he was too drunk to remember what happened and authorities took no further action. One of the later victims said she was abused 15 times, each time after which Ugarte absolved her of her sins. The archdiocese made an investigation and Archbishop Mahony imposed in 1995 that he return to Spain, to the diocese of Vitoria, under the supervision of the bishop, who was then José María Larrauri, replaced that same year by Miguel Asurmendi. He ordered him to take up residence there, not to officiate public masses and to seek lay work. It also prohibited him from returning to the United States for seven years without the express consent of the diocese.

He was ordained in Barcelona in 1920. The Official Catholic Directory indicates that he may have arrived in the U.S. in 1931. He first worked in Los Angeles, then in Tucson and Gallup. In 1945 he was incardinated in the diocese of El Paso, where he was in charge of several parishes, in Smeltertown and in Masilla Park, until 1964, the year in which, during a trip to Barcelona to visit his brother, he died. He is identified as an abuser in both the list of pedophilia of the dioceses of Las Cruces and El Paso, both published in 2019.

Born in a town in Burgos in 1957, he studied at the seminary of the city until the penultimate year, but then moved to the United States, as confirmed by the bishopric of this city, which details that it has not heard anything from him again. He was ordained in Burgos in 1984 and was already incardinated in 1983 in the diocese of Corpus Christi, Texas, according to information from this American bishopric. There he was accused of drugging and raping four boys and a man between 1991 and 1994. At that time, he went to Spain, and appears in the diocese of Alcalá de Henares. In 1996, he voluntarily returned to Texas and was arrested. After he was tried in 1997, the charges were dismissed, but the diocese included him in 2019 on its public list of priests who had received credible allegations of abuse, noting that he was excarded from the diocese in 2000 and removed from ministry in 2011. García sued the diocese for including him in that registry, but the diocese of Corpus Christi, consulted by EL PAÍS, reaffirms the information it made public in 2019. However, he does not clarify whether he informed the diocese of Alcalá or the Spanish Church of the accusations against him in the United States.

After the trial, García returned definitively to Spain, always in the diocese of Alcalá. This newspaper has asked this bishopric if he was informed of the accusations against this priest when he arrived from the United States, if he took measures in this regard or had contact with minors, in what destinations he continued his ministry and if he has received complaints in Spain. The diocese of Alcalá only replies in writing and only points out that "the Ombudsman and the EEC have already been informed about this case." He has not disclosed his current whereabouts.

Born in 1935, he was ordained in 1959 in the diocese of Ourense. His fates are unknown until he appears in 1979 in the United States, in the state of New Jersey. He went through several parishes in the Diocese of Trenton, where he was included in 2019 on the diocese's public list of priests who had received credible allegations of abuse, with "multiple" cases. His case came to light in 2002, following accusations of a woman for events that occurred in 1982, and he was removed from his post. He then returned to Ourense and remained a priest there. This diocese, contacted by EL PAÍS, assures that "there is no record that it arrived with any complaint or open process in the United States." In any case, he points out that he was already retired, did not have any appointment in any destination and there are no complaints against him in Ourense. However, already in 2005, an American newspaper located the priest in Galicia and spoke with him. Fernandez said he returned to Spain to live his retirement and denied having been charged in Trenton. The then bishop of Ourense, Luis Quinteiro, who is currently in Vigo-Tui, "refused to answer written questions about Monsignor Fernández," according to the newspaper, and replied to the journalist: "I do not know what right you have to send me these questions." Fernandez died in 2006 at age 71.

Emilio García, ordained a priest in 1957, was accused of abusing and raping a minor during the sixties in Florida, in the diocese of Orlando. The victim began to have memories of what happened in 2002, after the abuse scandal at the Boston Church. She told local media that Garcia began abusing her when she was 14. Two weeks after her 16th birthday, Garcia invited her to his rectory office to pick up a birthday present and raped her. Garcia admitted to the allegations. He was removed from office and returned to Spain, the fate unknown. He died in 2020, according to the 2020 State Attorney's Office and Florida Department of Law Enforcement's list of accused abuses.

This Catalan priest, born in Bagà in 1907, was ordained in 1930 with the order of the Sons of the Holy Family. He arrived in the United States in 1947, and the first three years of his stay there he was frequently moved between parishes and states. He was sued several times for pedophilia. The last time in 2010, accused of abusing two girls in catechism class. But all the information about his abuse only came to light in 2007, when the diocese of San Diego made it public. By then he had been dead for a long time, since 1982. He had returned to Spain in 1972, to his village of Barcelona. He is included in the list of members of the Diocese of San Diego with credible allegations of abuse from 2007.

He was born in Zaragoza in 1911 and was ordained with the Augustinian Recollects in 1935, the year in which he began to be assistant pastor in the State of Kansas. He went through several states before settling in California, where he was first accused by a woman, who claimed that Sierra had abused her in 1969, when she was eight years old. In 2019, three other women denounced him for abuse in the sixties. In 2020, five men and women filed another lawsuit. One of the victims, a male, claimed Sierra raped him when he was around 12 years old. Sierra returned to Spain in 1983 with a letter of recommendation, and died in 1991 in Zaragoza. He is included in the list of members of the Diocese of San Diego with credible allegations of abuse, published in 2007 as part of the diocese's bankruptcy proceedings, because of abuse claims.

Spanish Franciscan belonging to the province of the order in Santa Barbara, California. He committed abuse between 1988 and 1991, according to the list of credibly accused clerics published by the congregation in 2019. Garcia, this document indicates, left the order in 1989 and returned to Spain, but hardly any information is found about him. The warrant says it learned of the abuses in 1998, though it only disclosed it in 2019.

The case of Francisco Carreras was the first of priests accused in the United States and relocated to Spain that EL PAÍS discovered. He published it between 2018 and 2019, at the beginning of the investigation of abuse in the Spanish Church. It is also one of the most terrible. Carreras, ordained in Salamanca in 1973, moved to Miami in 1975, where he was denounced for abuse. The North American diocese sent him back to Spain to his bishopric of origin, that of Salamanca, and warned of the accusations against him, as confirmed to this newspaper. However, Carreras was simply assigned to towns in the province of Salamanca between 1981 and 2004, under the mandate of three different bishops (Mauro Rubio, Braulio Rodríguez and Carlos López) and is accused of dozens of abuses. The diocese of Salamanca has never given explanations for the case. He lived retired in a hermitage and died during the pandemic.

Spillane, an American and member of the Legionaries of Christ, was working in schools of the order in Spain in a period that could not be determined between the late eighties and nineties, according to the American press. He was born in 1954, and entered this congregation and was ordained in 1986, in the American diocese of Venice. He worked in different countries as a teacher and director of schools of the order. Already in the United States, in 1997 he was accused and sentenced to two years of house arrest and two years of probation for trying to flirt with a 13-year-old boy online, who turned out to be an undercover policeman. Spillane admitted to these facts, and also admitted to previous abuses in Mexico. His religious vows were taken away in 1998, the congregation said. The judgment in the case explains that Spillane had rented a room to which he planned to take the child in which there were oils, a vibrator and condoms. He is one of the names that make up the list of members of the Religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ with proven accusations of sexual abuse.

This American priest, also known as Brother Daniel Elisha, was accused in 1993 of abusing a girl in the sixties in the diocese of Paterson, who separated him and sent him to a convent. He had a relationship with Spain and ended up in a monastery in the municipality of Puentenansa, Cantabria, where he lived between 2002 and 2004. The choice of the place is due to the fact that he had reported that in that area he experienced a miraculous cure of cancer in 1991. It was in San Sebastián de Garabandal, a place where in the sixties Marian apparitions were announced. Despite being retired and forbidden to dress as a priest and practice, he moved around several places in the United States posing as a priest. He was included in the list of priests accused of pedophilia of this bishopric in 2019.

He is a Peruvian priest who served in the Diocese of Orange from 1987 to 1990. The diocese explained, about the reasons for his departure, that he had gone as a missionary to Peru. However, he later returned to the Diocese of Fresno, between 1997 and 2004. It was then, in 2004, after the order of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to make public the hidden cases of the past, when the diocese of Orange revealed that in reality Arrunategui had been dismissed in 1990 for accusations of pedophilia. He included him on his list of credible defendants. Then he disappeared from the United States and his track was lost. A local newspaper found out in 2009 that he had passed through Madrid, where he spent at least five years in different parishes, sometimes changing his name: in 2004, he went through Nuestra Señora de la Fuencisla, as Horacio Edgardo Arrunategui; two years later, he was assigned to the church of San Lesmes, in Alcobendas; and in 2008, as Horacio Edgardo Jiménez, in Santa María del Parque, in Madrid. The Orange County Weekly asked the diocese, then led by Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, for explanations but said it did not get any response. Arrunategui then returned to Peru, where he was found by another journalist.

The diocese of Madrid, consulted by EL PAÍS, confirms that it appears in its records as a student priest who came to study theology at the University of San Dámaso, dependent on the bishopric. He came from the Peruvian diocese of Chimbote, which did not report any history of abuse or any mention of his passage through the United States, says the Madrid bishopric. He explains that, as a student, he was not assigned any pastoral assignment and his assignment to parishes was only to be able to have a place to celebrate Mass. He specifies, however, that his data limit the stay between 2004 and 2006 and that it does not appear that he passed through the first church, Nuestra Señora de la Fuencisla. There is no record of any complaint against him in the diocese of Madrid. The Diocese of Orange only responds that it was an outside priest, and does not give further details.

This American priest of Opus Dei was denounced in 2021, accused of abusing a minor between 1974 and 1978, when he was still a lay member of the Work. Barrett was ordained in Rome in 1985 and then moved to Madrid, Opus Dei spokesmen in Spain confirm. However, they do not know how much time he spent in the country. They explain that it was common for new priests, after ordination, to spend time of practice in Spain, before being assigned to a destination. Barrett then moved to Houston, then to Los Angeles and in 2016, to New York, where he was sued in 2021. Opus Dei does not know the outcome of this process. The Diocese of New York has not responded to this newspaper. In any case, the Work assures that there are no complaints against him for abuses in Spain.

This Ecuadorian priest was a preacher of the Charismatic Renewal movement, and even recorded albums of religious music. He was attached to the diocese of Tucson, Arizona, and was accused of abusing ten minors in 2005 in Yuma, and two more in Maricopa, between 1988 and 1991. He had formed a group of young women and girls with sectarian features, called Consecrated Virgins, who wore blue and with whom he held initiation ceremonies in which he cut off a lock of their hair. He was placed on the diocese's list of credible defendants in 2019. Following the complaints, he fled the country in 2005 and, after two years of searching, was arrested in 2007 in Spain. He was then 51 years old. There was an international arrest warrant against him. The National Police located him in Guadarrama, in the province of Madrid, where he was giving a seminar at the Fray Luis de León residential cultural complex, of the Augustinians. According to the US press, the extradition ultimately did not take place. The diocese of Madrid, consulted in this regard, indicates that it does not appear in any of its records and that he was able to travel to Spain on his own, apart from his diocese of origin in Ecuador. Nothing is known of subsequent activities, except that he registered as a freelancer in Torrejón de Ardoz (Madrid) in the activity of freight transport. He died in 2018.

He is a priest of Irish origin but who was ordained in Oviedo, according to data from the American press. He was removed from his parish in 1992, when he was 33, because the archdiocese deemed him to have "a pattern of inappropriate behavior" that made him a possible risk to children. He returned to Oviedo, according to the American press. The Asturian diocese explains that "this priest left Asturias in 1987, requested the excardination of the diocese and it was granted in 1989." He assures that there is no documentary evidence of his presence since 1987 and that there are no complaints against him of any kind. His subsequent whereabouts are unknown.

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Source: elparis

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