By Catholic News Agency
A Capuchin priest was arrested in Washington D.C. Nov. 7 after he was accused of sexually abusing a teenager in 2015. Fr. Urbano Vazquez, OFM Cap., had served as parochial vicar of Shrine of the Sacred Heart in northwest Washington since 2014. He has been charged with second-degree child sexual abuse.
The charges concern a claim that Vazquez had put his hand down the shirt of a 13-year-old girl on two occasions and had touched her bare chest.
The Archdiocese of Washington said they learned about the allegation Oct. 26, after being informed by the Capuchin Order of Friars Minor. The archdiocese confirmed to CNA that they immediately removed Fr. Vazquez from the parish, suspended his priestly faculties in the diocese, and informed local police who then arrested Vazquez.
Since Vazquez’s arrest, the archdiocese said they had recieved additional alleagations against the priest. Due to the nature of the police investigation, this information was kept private until Wednesday.
The Shrine of the Sacred Heart, while within the Archdiocese of Washington, is administered by the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, and the church is home to many of the D.C.-area’s Hispanic Catholics. Vazquez was not ordained by the Archdiocese of Washington, but like his brother Franciscans, was permitted by the archdiocese to work within its boundaries. The Archdiocese of Washington has since forbidden Vazquez from exercising ministry, but it will be the Capuchin Order which handles further disciplinary action.
The Archdiocese of Washington said in a statement that Vazquez had passed all required background checks and other investigative measures prior to his arrival in the city.
Also in the statement, the Archdiocese of Washington said that Vazquez’s superior at the shrine, Fr. Moises Villalta, OFM Cap. had been removed from his post as pastor.
The Archdiocese determined that Villalta “failed to follow appropriate protocols related to reporting claims” and had previously known about the allegations and had not reported them to either the police or the archdiocese.
The parish’s child protection coordinator was also placed on administrative leave.
The Archdiocese of Washington recently published a list of 28 clergy to have served within the archdiocese who had been credibly accused of sexual misconduct or abuse over the last 70 years.
Since the publication of that list, three additional names have been added, Fr. Vazquez will be the fourth.