GENEVA — The Rev. Erick Viloria, parochial vicar in Our Lady of Peace Parish since June, has been removed from public ministry.
Viloria’s removal, and that of the Rev. Thomas Valenti, was announced Sunday by Bishop Salvatore Matano, the Diocese of Rochester leader. The decision followed an independent investigation, review and recommendation from the Diocesan Review Board.
Viloria was ordained in June 2016. He served as parochial vicar in St. Mary’s Parish and Sts. Mary and Martha Parish in Auburn until June, at which time he was assigned to the same post in Our Lady of Peace. Viloria replaced the Rev. Michael Mayer, who was transferred to Webster after five years in Geneva.
According to a news release from the Diocese, Viloria is restricted from engaging in public ministry or presenting himself publicly as a cleric. The Diocese received a complaint about him in August that the Review Board investigated. That panel recommended Viloria be restricted from ministry based on information that he engaged in “objectionable and inappropriate use of social media with an adult.” According to the diocese, that claim was unrelated to his Our Lady of Peach Parish ministry.
Viloria, a native of Colombia, can appeal to the Vatican. The Rev. Thomas Mull, Our Lady of Peace Parish’s priest administrator, said Viloria has moved out of the rectory and is believed to be staying with friends in the New York-New Jersey area.
“I don’t know what to say,” Mull said Monday. “When the investigation began in August, I advocated for him, but it was up to the bishop. Priests pledge obedience to the bishop. I know he’s aware of the appeal available to him, but I’m not sure he will do it. It’s costly and can take a long time.
“Personally, he was a good parochial vicar here since June. He was good with people of all ages and very versatile in his ministry. He speaks Spanish fluently, which helped greatly with our Hispanic parishioners; they loved him. I told the bishop I had no complaints about his work here.”
Parishioners contacted by the Finger Lakes Times Monday declined to comment.
For now, Mull said the Rev. Michael Merritt, parochial vicar for St. Francis-St. Clare Parish in Waterloo and Seneca Falls, will help in Geneva until a new appointment is made. That isn’t expected to happen until June.
The Review Board includes lay professionals in law, child protection, law enforcement and psychology who advise the bishop in his assessment of allegations of sexual abuse of minors and a cleric’s suitability for ministry.
“The Diocese of Rochester is committed to creating a safe environment for all, most especially our children, young people and vulnerable adults,” Matano said in a written statement. “As Bishop of Rochester, I pledge to continue the many important initiatives we have undertaken to ensure this. I remain committed to the guiding principles established under the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted in 2002 and was updated in 2018.”
The Diocesan statement said victims of abuse should always report potential crimes to civil authorities. To report a case of possible sexual abuse and to receive help and guidance from the Diocese of Rochester, Matano said victims are encouraged to contact Deborah Housel, victim assistance coordinator, at (585) 328-3228, ext. 1555, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Valenti was ordained in April 1976 and held several ministries, most recently as parochial administrator of Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick Parish in Tioga County. The Diocese said Valenti was accused publicly in June of sexually abusing a minor, an accusation that dated to the 1970s. The Diocesan statement said that subsequent to a complete review and investigation of the matter, the Review Board recommended the current action based on new information that Valenti had engaged in objectionable and inappropriate behavior with minors during the 1970s.
According to The Catholic Courier, the Diocese’s newspaper, Valenti has been adamant in his denial of the allegations and intends to pursue his right to appeal.