DC priest arrested on charges of child sexual abuse

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WASHINGTON —  D.C. police have arrested a Catholic priest on charges of child sexual abuse.

Urbano Vazquez, 46, of Northeast D.C., was arrested Wednesday following allegations of sexual abuse. Vazquez has been the parochial vicar at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart Parish in Columbia Heights since 2014.

Police said in a news release that Vazquez had sexual contact with a child without permission in May 2015.

The victim was 13 years old at the time of the alleged abuse, and the suspect was 42 years old. She said in a statement to police that Vazquez placed his hand down the front of her shirt and onto her bare breast on two occasions.

The Archdiocese of Washington found out on Oct. 26 from the order that oversees the parish — the Capuchins — that Vazquez has been accused of sexual abuse. It was reported to D.C. police.

The archdiocese said in a statement that this was the first allegation of sexual abuse against Vazquez, and that they removed him from the ministry and suspended his priestly duties.

Since the first report, the archdiocese said that additional allegations against Vazquez have been reported.

In its review, the archdiocese determined that the pastor of the parish Moises Villalta “failed to follow appropriate protocols related to reporting the allegations.” The archdiocese removed Villalta as pastor, and it placed the child protection coordinator on administrative leave.

The Archdiocese of Washington has been inundated with scandal over the last year, most recently with the resignation of its archbishop Cardinal Donald Wuerl in October, who left amid a Pennsylvania Grand Jury report that he played a role in covering up clergy abuse in the Pittsburgh diocese.

The head of the Washington diocese before Wuerl, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, was removed from ministry by the Archdiocese of New York after it found allegations of abuse over a period of years “credible and substantiated.”

Following Wuerl’s resignation, the archdiocese released the names of more than two dozen former clergy who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia opened a civil investigation into the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington over clergy abuse in October.

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