Two Chicago priests, at least one of whom is connected to a priest recruitment program suspended by Cardinal Blase Cupich, were arrested on Monday for sexual acts in public.
According to Catholic News Agency, Fr. Diego L. Berrio and Fr. Edwin Cortes were arrested in Miami “after the men were reportedly found engaged in a sex act within a parked car,” in full view of Miami’s popular Ocean Drive. Both were arrested.
One of the priests was a graduate of the controversial Casa Jesus program, which invited prospective seminarians from Latin America to partake in a “house of discernment” as they considered the priesthood — before it was shut down by the archdiocese of Chicago in 2016 over allegations that it was hiding and encouraging homosexual activity, and one priest involved was found with child pornography.
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The Casa Jesus program was suspended in 2016. In that year, NBC 5 Chicago reported homosexual activity among Casa Jesus participants, and said that in 2015 three participants had been dismissed after visiting a gay bar.
In September 2016, Fr. Octavio Munoz was arrested on child pornography charges. Munoz was the rector of Casa Jesus from 2008 to 2015, when he was transferred to a parish in the archdiocese.
The man who replaced Munoz as rector of the Casa Jesus house allegedly learned that his predecessor had child pornography on his computer and did not report it to the diocese. CNA reports that he is still working in Chicago:
On July 7, 2015, Fr. Kevin Hays, who had been appointed to replace Munoz as rector, toured the priest’s apartment with a Church employee, according to an ABC 7 report.
The employee claimed that a laptop belonging to Munoz was streaming child pornography while he and Hays were in the apartment. The employee reportedly contacted archdiocesan officials about the pornography more than a week later, and was surprised to learn that Hays had not yet reported the matter.
The archdiocese contacted private investigators after the matter was reported, but did not contact police until July 28, the same day Munoz was removed from ministry, according to the Chicago Tribune.
ABC 7 reported that Hays told archdiocesan officials he had not seen pornographic videos playing while visiting the apartment. Hays is now the pastor of Notre Dame de Chicago Parish in Chicago.
Cardinal Blaise Cupich, who has been a staunch defender of Pope Francis amid allegations that the pope ignored and even hid incidents of sexual abuse, took a tough line on Munoz, immediately stripping him and several of his associates of their priestly faculties, and shutting down the Casa Jesus program.
Upon learning of the arrests in Miami, Cardinal Blase Cupich announced that he “has removed Fr. Berrio from ministry and withdrawn his faculties to minister in the Archdiocese of Chicago, effective immediately. The archdiocese will appoint an administrator for the Misión San Juan Diego as soon as possible.”
“Archdiocese representatives have been in contact with Fr. Cortes’ home diocese of Soacha, Colombia and informed them that Fr. Cortes will not be granted additional faculties to minister in the Archdiocese of Chicago,” the statement continued.
Amidst the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic church, Cardinal Blase Cupich has refused to publicly acknowledge that homosexuality in the priesthood could be one of the crisis’s chief causes, as many of the victims are post-pubescent boys and seminarians. Instead, he has blamed the problem primarily on “clericalism.”