- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 21, 2003

DALLAS — The Catholic Church here, beleaguered by several sexual-abuse cases in recent years, has another controversy in the works — this one surrounding the assignment of a priest once accused of raping a nun to a Dallas-area church.

Parishioners in Frisco, a fast-growing town just north of Dallas, are upset about the selection of Monsignor Ernesto C. Villaroya to replace a popular priest who was reassigned to his native Colombia a few weeks ago without explanation.

On Sunday, several dozen church members picketed the church, demanding the appointment be voided.

“We don’t want a rapist priest,” read one sign.

Others railed against Dallas Bishop Charles Grahmann, insisting he resign.

Bishop Grahmann, under fire for several years for refusing to fire priests known to have molested altar boys, remained stoic, as he has during the controversies within his own denomination. Through an intermediary, he refused to be interviewed.

“He’s not going to be interviewed on this,” said church spokesman Bronson Havard yesterday. “He figures it’s not going to do him any good.”

Adding to the consternation of those opposing the new priest is that Bishop Grahmann dispatched his predecessor, the Rev. Armando Beltran, to his home parish in Colombia three months ago without giving him time to even bid farewell to the congregation.

Many members of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Frisco said Father Beltran was extremely popular, especially among the burgeoning Hispanic membership.

The diocese’s chancellor, Mary Edlund, issued a brief statement last weekend, saying that Father Beltran, “like all visiting priests, was asked to follow specific diocesan and parish standards. He violated those standards and was asked to leave the diocese.”

In the statement she said that while the situation concerned “a personal matter” and could not be publicly explained, “the violations did not involve sexual misconduct.”

The assignment of the Monsignor Villaroya aggravated the unrest and dragged the bishop back into the line of fire.

Monsignor Villaroya was suspended from a parish in Ennis (some 40 miles south of Dallas) last summer after a rape accusation resurfaced in a California civil suit.

Sylvia Abano Martinez Arambulo — the former nun — charged that the priest had attacked her sexually 20 years ago in their native country, the Philippines, and that church leaders in Los Angeles and Dallas had covered up for him ever since.

A California judge ruled the plaintiff had waited too long to sue and tossed the case out. Dallas church officials said recently that the verdict — even via a technicality — enabled Monsignor Villaroya to resume his duties.

Meanwhile, the priest is involved in a child-support case in California.

Last year he signed a paternity affidavit, admitting fatherhood and agreeing to pay $150 a month to his son, 18-year-old Jonathan Arambulo. Mrs. Arambulo told the Dallas Morning News the priest had paid a total of $300 since then.

Mrs. Edlund said if the parishioners did not accept Monsignor Villaroya, he would not stay, and she conceded the congregation should have been told about the priest’s background.

“We could have had — should have had — a session like this prior to his appointment so you could have known,” she said.

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