Catholic Free Press

Catholic Free Press Digital Edition

  • Dec
  • 20

Priest who feld to Philippines returns to face charges

Posted By December 20, 2012 | 1:50 pm | Lead Story #3

By William T. Clew

Father Lowe B. Dongor, 36, wanted on a charge of being a fugitive from justice, has been returned to the United States from the Philippines, where he had fled in October 2011 after being charged with possessing child pornography and larceny of more than $250 from St. Joseph Parish in Fitchburg.
He had turned himself in to authorities in the Philippines.
He was arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department on the fugitive charge, according to Timothy Connelly, spokesman for the office of District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr..
Father Dongor waived his right to fight rendition and will be returned to Worcester soon, Mr. Connelly said. Father Dongor will face charges in Worcester Superior Court of possessing child pornography and larceny of more than $250.
Father Dongor was associate pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Fitchburg. He was arraigned on those charges in Fitchburg District Court on Sept. 13, 2011, and released on personal recognizance. He failed to appear in court on Oct. 25, 2011, for a pre-trial hearing. He fled to the Philippines, where he had been born, and reportedly remained there until Nov. 2 this year, when he turned himself in to the Philippines National Bureau of Investigation.
Father Dongor was removed from public ministry in July 2011, by Bishop McManus after financial improprieties were discovered at the parish. The information was turned over to Fitchburg police. They said he had stolen $40 or$50 from the parish at various times and sent the money home to his family in the Philippines.
He was charged with possession of child pornography after an independent computer service notified state police that one of Father Dongor’s laptops contained child pornography. Images of prepubescent girls around the ages of 10 and 11 in various states of undress were found, according to court documents.
Until his September 2011, arraignment, Father Dongor had been living at the Holy Name of Jesus House of Studies in Worcester and later at St. Joseph Parish in Auburn, according to reports in The Catholic Free Press.     Because of the indictment he had to move out of any parish or diocesan property,  Raymond L. Delisle, diocesan communications director, said at the time. He said that once a priest is charged with a crime that falls under the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, he cannot live in a church residence.
Bishop McManus, in a letter Oct. 13, 2011, to Archbishop Nereo Odchimar, president of the Catholic Bishops of the Conference of the Philippines, said that a May 3, 2011 clarification by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome that “the acquisition, possession and distribution of child pornography is a canonical delict that pertains to the sexual abuse of a minor,” led the diocese to take the action it did.
Bishop McManus said, “Following Father Lowe Dongor’s arraignment in Fitchburg court, I requested that he move out of residence on church property since it would be a Charter offense until his case was heard. Subsequently, it came to my attention that Father Dongor had left the family he was staying with in the local area.
“Although we did not know definitely at that time if he had returned to the Philippines, we notified the local authorities that we did not know his whereabouts and also notified the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines. I did that because, in the event that he presented himself as a priest in that country, I wanted it known that he was not a priest in good canonical standing.”
Father Dongor was born Feb. 17, 1976 in Iloilo, Philippines. He came to Worcester in 2003 to discern a vocation with the Assumptionists at Assumption College, where he studied. Later he pursued priesthood for the Diocese of Worcester, and studied at Saint Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore. He was ordained June 26, 2010. He was the first Filipino priest ordained for the Worcester Diocese.
In a story Dec. 11 in the Inquirer Visayas, a Philippine newspaper, Father Dongor was said to have admitted to the larceny and pornography charges.
He claimed he sent the money home to his family because of a family emergency. He claimed he intended to replace the money from his “monthly stipend,” but was caught on a closed-circuit television camera in the office.
He also claimed he visited the pornography sites “out of curiosity.”
“Human as I am, I was weak and I was not able to resist the temptation. But still, this is not an excuse. I know that the scandal I have done affected the lives or many people who … loved me, believed in me and supported me. With this, I am so sorry,” he said, according to the news story.
He was quoted as saying that he has undergone counseling after he was charged with the offenses. He said he would be willing to undergo further treatment and counseling especially on his sexual interest in minors.
He also was quoted as saying, “I am so sorry. I want to apologize to all the people … for the damage I have done to you all, to the Church and to myself.
“I am ready to go to jail if that will be the consequence of my actions. I leave myself to God now.”