Vatican Radio is reporting that Pope Francis has removed the Bishop of Ciudad del Este, Rogelio Ricardo Livieres Plano. He has appointed Ricardo Jorge Valenzuela Ríos, Bishop of Villarrica del Espíritu Santo, as Apostolic Administrator.
According to a statement released by the Vatican on Sept. 25, "After a careful examination of the findings of the Apostolic Visitations made to the Bishop, dioceses and seminaries of Ciudad del Este, by the Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for the Clergy, the Holy Father has proceeded with the replacement of Bishop Rogelio Ricardo Livieres Plano. ...The grave decision taken by the Holy See, under the weight of serious pastoral concerns, is for the greater good and unity of the Church of Ciudad del Este and episcopal communion in Paraguay.
The statement continued: "The Holy Father, in the exercise of his ministry as 'the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity of both the bishops and of the faithful' (LG 23) calls for the clergy and the entire people of God of Ciudad del Este to accept the Holy See’s decision with the spirit of obedience, docility and an open heart, guided by faith.
"Moreover, he invites the entire Church of Paraguay, led by its pastors, to a serious process of reconciliation and to overcome any factionalism and discord, so that the face of the one Church "purchased with the blood of his own Son" is not wounded and the "flock of Christ" is not deprived of the joy of the Gospel (cf. Acts 20: 28)."
Bishop Plano, a member of the conservative Opus Dei movement, had most recently run afoul with the Vatican because of his efforts to promote and then protect a Argentine priest, the Rev. Carlos Urrutigoity, who departed from the diocese of Scranton, Pa., in 2004 under a cloud of allegations and controversy, including charges of sexual abuse and misappropriation of funds. He had been described by former Scranton Bishop Joseph Martino, who resigned in 2009, as a “serious threat to young people.” Urrutigoity was accused of sexual abuse in a highly publicized lawsuit in Scranton in 2002. At the time he and another priest, Eric Ensey, were suspended by now-retired Bishop James Timlin, amid allegations they had sexually molested students at St. Gregory’s Academy in Elmhurst, Pa., now closed.
“Martino also carefully and consistently expressed his grave doubts about this cleric’s suitability for priestly ministry and cautioned the Bishop of the Diocese of Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, to not allow Father Urrutigoity to incardinate into his diocese,” according to a statement on the diocese site.
Urrutigoity was transferred to Canada before settling, with many of the remaining members of his society, in Paraguay. Under Bishop Plano he rose to the position of diocesan vicar, meaning he would have theoretically been called upon to investigate any claim of sexual abuse that might come to diocesen officials. That promotion drew the attention of the Vatican in March and a team of papal investigators was dispatched in July.
On July 30 the Vatican removed Urrutigoity and barred Livieres from ordaining any men to the priesthood.
That move prompted an unusual and sharply worded 12-point rebuttal to Rome, the Paraguayan diocese said Urrutigoity has been the subject of “a long and harsh defamation campaign in the U.S.” and said he came “recommended by some cardinals with roles in the Vatican," including then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Bishop Plano portrayed himself as a victim of Vatican intrigue and compared his experience to that of the Jesuits in Paraguay during their suppression in the 18th century.