A Roman Catholic priest from Costa Rica has been removed from a New Britain church after the Archdiocese of Hartford learned in recent weeks of an allegation of sexual misconduct dating back several years in his native country, the archdiocese announced Sunday.
Authorities in Costa Rica have been searching for the Rev. Enrique Vasquez since 1999, when he disappeared amid allegations that he had molested a 10-year-old boy, the Associated Press reported.
Vasquez denied the charge when questioned about it by a Hartford archdiocese official in recent days.
Upon learning that Vasquez was accused of misconduct, Archbishop Daniel A. Cronin of Hartford ended Vasquez’s assignment as parochial vicar of St. Mary’s Church in New Britain, where he had worked since 1999, said the Rev. John P. Gatzak, a spokesman for the archdiocese.
Vasquez is barred from ministering anywhere in the archdiocese while he is being investigated by Costa Rican authorities, Gatzak said.
The abuse allegedly occurred during 1995, in the small town of Santa Rosa de Pocosol in San Carlos, about 78 miles north of San Jose. The family reported the allegations in 1998.
Before assigning Vasquez to New Britain – where he has assisted with Spanish-language services – the Hartford archdiocese received an “affidavit of suitability” from church officials in Costa Rica, attesting to his suitability to do ministry here, Gatzak said.
Asked Sunday night how such an affidavit would be issued for Vasquez after the allegation in Costa Rica had been received, Gatzak said, “I don’t know. That’s a very good question. Somebody, I am sure, has the answer to that question, but I don’t.”
Parishioners at St. Mary’s were informed of the decision Sunday by Bishop Peter Rosazza during a Spanish-language Mass.
Gatzak said no allegations against Vasquez had been made in the local archdiocese.
Gatzak said Costa Rican authorities had made the 1998 allegation known to the Hartford archdiocese in recent weeks while Vasquez was on vacation. When Vasquez returned during the past week, Rosazza informed him of Cronin’s decision, Gatzak said, adding that he believed it was Rosazza who had questioned Vasquez and received his denial.
Vasquez had been living at the St. Mary’s rectory in New Britain, but is no longer there, and Gatzak said he does not know where he is.
Though he worked in Connecticut, Vasquez is still assigned to the Diocese of Ciudad Quesada in Costa Rica, Gatzak said.
The Hartford archdiocese is cooperating with Costa Rican authorities in the investigation, Gatzak said, but he did not know what the authorities had requested or what information and assistance the archdiocese has provided.
Rosazza could not be reached for comment.