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Spotlight Report

Brooklyn's Daily had glowing praise for accused priest

NYC indictment weighed lightly in Venezuela move

By Steven Wilmsen, Globe Staff, 4/21/2002

Brooklyn's Bishop Thomas V. Daily, once a top deputy of Cardinal Bernard F. Law, provided a glowing recommendation of a priest in his diocese to a Venezuelan bishop in 1991 - even as a 60-count indictment on child sexual abuse charges was pending against the priest in Queens, according to The New York Times.

The report detailed another example of how a priest facing multiple allegations of sexual abuse was allowed to move from parish to parish - and in this case from country to country - without being held accountable by church officials. The Globe has reported on how area priests, including John J. Geoghan and Paul R. Shanley, similarly moved from church to church, only to molest again.

The priest in the Times' story, the Rev. Enrique Diaz Jimenez, left New York to minister in Venezuela, where he was later accused of sexual abuse by 18 boys preparing for their first Holy Communion.

''We have never had a single problem, and everything we have to say is positive,'' Daily wrote in a Feb. 7, 1991, letter to Bishop Francisco de Guruceaga Iturriza of the Vargas diocese in Venezuela, the Times reported.

Daily wrote that Diaz was ''experiencing a very difficult situation'' in New York because of the criminal case against him, but played down the priest's trouble with sexual abuse, according to the Times.

Though aware of Diaz's criminal conviction on three of the 60 counts in New York, church officials in Venezuela believed the priest's assertions that the accusations were false and took him in, at least in part, because of Daily's recommendation, de Guruceaga said.

If Daily had made a strong statement against the priest, ''I would not have received him,'' the bishop told the Times.

A spokesman for Daily, Frank DeRosa, said yesterday that the bishop correctly praised Diaz's work as a priest during his official three-year assignment in New York, and said it's unfair to make a connection between the recommendation and ''accusations that came out about his behavior years later.''

''During that three years is when the bishop was saying his work was good, because it was good,'' DeRosa said. He added that Daily took over as bishop of the Brooklyn Diocese in 1990 and relied on parish officials and accounts of the popular priest's work in making the recommendation.

The Diaz case is the latest to surface as church records and media accounts document cases in which Daily and other close subordinates of Law allowed accused priests to move from parish to parish, with continued access to children.

Daily - a top deputy under Law in Boston before being moved to Brooklyn, the fifth-largest diocese in the country - came under scrutiny for his role in putting Geoghan back in parishes despite allegations that he had molested children. Geoghan was convicted in January of indecently touching a 10-year-old boy.

Daily came under fire again when the Globe reported that the Rev. Timothy Lambert, 44, who is on a leave of absence, accused Daily of brushing off allegations made four years ago that he and his brother were molested as children by a Brooklyn priest still serving as pastor.

Under mounting pressure this month, Daily reversed a long course of refusing to cooperate with New York authorities seeking information about accused priests. He agreed to hand over the names of all priests in his jurisdiction who have been accused of sexually abusing minors in the last 20 years.

The Diaz case illustrates not only soft treatment of accused priests, but also administrative cracks that apparently allowed his activities to go unchecked for years. His official three-year assignment in the Brooklyn Diocese ended in August 1986. He applied to remain in New York, and while Brooklyn diocesan officials discussed where to place him next, he traveled back and forth between New York and Venezuela, allegedly abusing children in both places, the Times reported, based on interviews with church officials and victims.

DeRosa said yesterday that he doesn't know in what capacity, if any, Diaz served the church from 1986 until he moved to the Venezuelan parish. While Diaz was in the administrative no-man's land, the Brooklyn Diocese was not responsible for him, DeRosa said, adding that Daily ultimately communicated a stronger message about Diaz to the priest's home archdiocese in Merida, Venezuela.

Shortly after receiving an assignment as a priest in Punta de Mulatos in Venezuela in 1991, rumors about Diaz and some boys at the village chapel began circulating, the Times reported. After being transferred to another parish nearby, the 18 boys came forward. In 1996, de Guruceaga suspended Diaz's priest's license for 20 years. Fearing scandal for the church, the bishop never brought the allegations to criminal authorities.

This story ran on page A23 of the Boston Globe on 4/21/2002.
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