The Diocese of Worcester has asked the Vatican to defrock the Rev. Lowe B. Dongor, the Roman Catholic priest charged in September with possessing child pornography and stealing from his parish in Fitchburg, reports the Telegram and Gazette.
Church and law enforcement officials believe Rev. Dongor has fled the country and may have returned to his native homeland of the Philippines. A default warrant was issued for Rev. Dongor after the clergyman failed to show up for an Oct. 25, 2011 court hearing.
Chancery officials said they are seeking to oust Rev. Dongor in the wake of a “clarification” last spring by church officials in Rome that possession of child pornography is grounds for removal from the priesthood.
In May, the Vatican’s Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith declared that “the acquisition, possession, and distribution of child pornography is a canonical delict that pertains to the sexual abuse of a minor.”
State police have charged that one of Rev. Dongor’s laptops contained images of girls around the ages of 10 and 11 in various states of undress. The priest also allegedly admitted to investigators that, on a number of occasions, he stole “$40 or $50” from St. Joseph Parish to send to his family in the Philippines, reports the Telegram and Gazette
Rev. Dongor is on administrative leave of absence and was relieved, in July, of his duties as associate pastor at St. Joseph’s by Bishop Robert J. McManus.
Raymond L. Delisle, a spokesman for the diocese, said that Bishop McManus has asked Pope Benedict XVI to defrock Rev. Dongor in light of the pornography allegations.
Bishop McManus had written the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines warning that the priest may have returned home to the Southeast Asian islands nation.
In a letter to the Filipino prelates, the bishop said that Rev. Dongor left a note saying that he would be returning “home.”
In November, the Philippine-based abs-cbnNEWS.com reported that the priest returned to his hometown of Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo, in October.
The website said that relatives, including Rev. Dongor’s brother, Joey, were surprised by the visit.
Family members said they hadn’t seen the priest in years and said they were shocked by the charges.
Timothy Connolly, a spokesman for District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr., said local authorities would move to extradite Rev. Dongor back to Massachusetts, if he is located, reports the Telegram and Gazette.
At this point, he said the DA’s office has no solid information on Rev. Dongor’s whereabouts.
“Once he’s found, the wheels will be put in motion to bring him back,” Mr. Connolly said.
Rev. Dongor, 35, was summoned to Fitchburg District Court on Sept. 9 on charges of larceny of property worth more than $250, larceny from a building and possession of child pornography.
He was released on personal recognizance.