Brooklyn diocese settles sex abuse lawsuit vs Filipino bishop

The late Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez of Marbel in South Cotabato province. YouTube photo

By Cristina DC Pastor

The Diocese of Brooklyn has settled a lawsuit against the late Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez, accused of sexual abuse of a minor when he was a visiting clergy in St. Francis de Sales Church in Belle Harbor in New York in the early 1970s.

According to Road to Recovery, Inc., a non-profit in New Jersey that assists victims of sexual abuse, Father Gutierrez sexually abused a minor child parishioner of St. Francis de Sales Parish on approximately six occasions from around 1970 until 1971 when the boy was about 11 to 12 years old.

Gutierrez became the bishop of Marbel in  Koronadal City in South Cotabato from 1982 to 2018. He was born in Romblon in 1939 and ordained as priest at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral of Roxas City, Capiz in 1962. He passed away in 2019. 

“That Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez, a credibly accused sexual abuser, became a leader in the Catholic Church leads one to believe that (he) was not only sexually abusing children as bishop but also allowing priests under his supervision to also sexually abuse innocent children,” said Mitchell Garabedian, the attorney for the victim, when contacted by The FilAm.  “This is another example of purportedly the most moral institution in the world acting the most immorally.”

He said the clergy sexual abuse claim was settled through the Diocese of Brooklyn IRCP Settlement Program,” indicating his client received compensation in “the low six figures.”

According to its website, the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP) will allow survivors of sexual abuse by priests or deacons of the diocese to seek financial compensation. It made clear that “donations given by the faithful in support of parishes, schools, charitable works…will not be used to fund the IRCP.”

Garabedian described his client as a courageous abuse survivor who is trying to heal and gain a degree of closure. “The victim or survivor is emotionally coping,” he said in an emailed comment to The FilAm.  “That emotional coping is an everyday process and some days are better than others.”

Lawyer Mitchell Garabedian; Robert Hoatson of Road to Recovery, Inc.  

Garabedian was one of the pivotal figures in the true crime film “Spotlight,” based on the Boston Globe’s investigative report on how the Catholic Church protected their priests against accusations of sex abuse. It won for the newspaper the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service the following year. A Boston area lawyer,  he was portrayed in the film by actor Stanley Tucci. His famous quote in the film:If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.”

Asked why the case of Gutierrez did not receive wide media attention, Garabedian said, “I do not know why the case of Bishop Fr. Dinualdo Gutierrez was not widely reported like some other clergy sexual abuse cases.” He said he does not know of any other Filipino priests involved in sexual abuse cases.

As a bishop in the Philippines, Gutierrez was a well-known church advocate for environmental justice, speaking out against mining operations in South Cotabato. He is said to be a critic of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war against drugs.

“It is common for priests throughout the world to travel great distances to serve in other countries, like the United States, especially during the summer months when parish priests from the USA take their vacations,” said Robert Hoatson, co-founder and president of Road to Recovery, Inc.  Gutierrez was on vacation in the U.S. when the abuse reportedly took place.

On April 2, Hoatson led a demonstration and leafleting in front of the church announcing to the parishioners of Belle Harbor that “a priest from the Philippines, Fr. Dinualdo Destajo Gutierrez, was credibly accused by a clergy sexual abuse victim of sexually abusing that victim.”

A female parishioner, he said, came up to him to say Gutierrez’ story happened many years ago, and questioned what good would it do to bring up the charges now.

“I said the victim(s) will feel much better that the story is getting out there because who knows how many other victims there are,” said Hoatson. “Secrecy destroys, and the more victims can tell their stories, the freer they are able to feel.”

© The FilAm 2022

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