March 16, 2005

Priest thwarts U.S. bishops' abuse policy by crossing river

The Dallas Morning News

10:35 PM CST on Tuesday, March 15, 2005

By BROOKS EGERTON and BRENDAN M. CASE / The Dallas Morning News

MATAMOROS, Mexico – When Monsignor Ivan Rovira was accused of rape in 2002, he didn't have to go far to dodge U.S. Catholic bishops' sex-abuse reforms.

Monsignor Rovira also continued to lead worship services regularly, despite Brownsville officials' assurances that he had been barred from public ministry. Last month, with Brownsville Bishop Raymundo Peña watching, he was among many priests celebrating Mass as Matamoros' new bishop was installed.

"I guess the Catholic Church is not universal," said Josie Rocha, two of whose sons have accused Monsignor Rovira. "We have a different set of rules just by jumping a river."

U.S. bishops say that since adopting a one-strike-and-you're-out-of-ministry rule in 2002, they have been doing everything possible to protect children and to promote victims' healing.

The policy permanently bars from ministry all priests confirmed to have ever sexually abused a minor. But it does not apply abroad, where many bishops consider the rule too harsh, and it does not apply to nonministerial jobs.

Only the Vatican can prevent foreign bishops from employing abusers – by removing them from the priesthood. U.S. church officials, however, don't always petition to have them expelled. And the Vatican can refuse a petition for various reasons, including the age of the case or a lack of cooperation by the abuser.

Posted by kshaw at March 16, 2005 05:31 AM