Catholic Free Press

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  • Oct
  • 31

Father Dongor reportedly seen Philippines

Posted By October 31, 2011 | 5:04 pm | Local

By Patricia O’Connell
CFP Correspondent

Philippine native, Father Lowe Dongor, 35, has left the country as he faces child pornography and larceny charges.
Filipino news services are reporting that Father Dongor, who is wanted on a default warrant for failing to appear in Fitchburg District Court, visited his family in the Philippines last week. A Worcester District Attorney’s Office spokesman, Paul Jarvey, said his office does not know Father Dongor’s whereabouts, although they knew that he was recently in Korea.
Bishop McManus removed Father Dongor from public ministry in July after he allegedly stole money from a cash drawer at St. Joseph Parish, Fitchburg, where he was associate pastor. He was arraigned in September on charges of possession of child pornography, larceny over $250 and larceny from a building. Sexually explicit images of pre-teen girls were reportedly found on one lap top computer, according to court documents.
In mid-October, Bishop McManus informed authorities here and in the Philippines that Father Dongor had left the Diocese without his permission.
Bishop McManus notified the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) that Father Dongor may have fled the United States for his native country and stated that he is not a priest in good standing.
The CBCP newswire printed parts of the letter dated Oct. 13 sent by Bishop McManus to Bishop Nereo P. Odchimar, prefect of the Diocese of Tandag and president of the CBCP.
“I bring this matter to Your Excellency’s attention in case Father Dongor presents himself to Bishops in the arch/dioceses of the Philippines as a priest in good canonical standing,” Bishop McManus wrote. “Obviously this is not the case.”
According to the bishop’s letter Father Dongor left a note saying he was going “home.”
After his September arraignment, Father Dongor was released on personal recognizance. Conditions of his release were not using computers and not having unsupervised contact with children under 14.  Mr. Jarvey said that Father Dongor was released on personal recognizance because he probably wasn’t deemed a flight risk.
He was represented at the time by Attorney Patrick K. Burke, who has an office in Leominster, according to court documents. Attorney Burke could not be reached by phone for comment.
Father Dongor was due in court Oct. 25 for a pre-trial hearing; he did not appear and a default warrant was issued for his arrest, according to court documents.
The criminal allegations against Father Dongor have generated headlines in the Philippines and also intense interest amongst Filipinos living abroad, as evidenced by the ongoing coverage on various blogs and news portals.
On Wednesday it was reported on, that relatives of Father Dongor confirmed he had visited the family home in Baratoc Nuevo, a community in the Illoilo Province, located in the Western Vasayas region of the country. The news service also reported Father Dongor’s relatives did not believe the charges against him.
GMA News online reported yesterday that the bishops there said they do not have an agreement with the Worcester Diocese on repatriating Father Dongor if he is found. The bishops in the Philippines said it is not within the jurisdiction of the church.
Until his September 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. Because of the indictment he had to move out of any parish or diocesan property, according to Raymond L. Delisle, diocesan communications director. Mr. Delisle 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 his letter to Bishop Odchimar said that on May 3, 2011 there was a 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.”
On Monday 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 & University, Baltimore. He was ordained June 26, 2010. He was the first Filipino priest in the Worcester Diocese.

– Margaret M. Russell contributed to this report.