Father Jorge Cordova Originally Fled Diocese When Faced with 12 Criminal Counts of Child Sexual Abuse in Yuma and Phoenix
(Phoenix, AZ) – Today, on behalf of a courageous survivor of child sexual abuse, attorneys Robert Pastor (Montoya, Lucero & Pastor PA) and Jeff Anderson (Jeff Anderson & Associates) filed a lawsuit against the Diocese of Phoenix. The plaintiff, identified in the case as Jane CE Doe, alleges sexual abuse by Father Jorge Washington Cordova, a Catholic priest from the Archdiocese of Quito (Ecuador) who was sent to work in Phoenix, Arizona in the early 1990s. Jane CE Doe alleges sexual abuse by Fr. Cordova when she was a young girl, after being recruited to be part of his “Consecradas”, or the “consecrated ones”, a group of young women and children whom the priest recruited, manipulated and sexually abused under his religious authority. The lawsuit was filed under HB2466 / Arizona’s Child Victims Act (CVA), which gives survivors of sexual abuse in Arizona until December 30, 2020 to bring lawsuits for sexual abuse they suffered as children.
The Diocese of Phoenix endorsed and supported Fr. Cordova’s group, giving it an appearance of legitimacy to the devout Catholics he preyed on
“Father Cordova preyed on me and my family during a vulnerable time,” said Jane CE Doe. “He took advantage of my faith, my trust in the Catholic Church, and my love of Jesus to exploit me. He did this same thing to the other girls and young women in our group, and the Diocese of Phoenix did nothing to stop him or protect us.”
Fr. Cordova was charged with ten counts of sexual abuse of minors in Yuma County in 2005, but fled the country before he could be arrested. In 2007 a Maricopa County grand jury indicted Fr. Cordova on two more counts stemming from the sexual abuse of Jane CE Doe. According to statements of victims and witnesses in the police investigation records, Fr. Cordova recruited young women and girls to be part of his group of consecrated virgins, called “consecradas.” Fr. Cordova performed elaborate initiation ceremonies into his group, in which he made the girls dress in blue, “dedicated” them through a prayer ceremony, and cut locks of their hair. The consecradas initiation ceremonies were performed at the Diocese of Phoenix facilities in plain sight, which led the young girls and their families to believe that Father Cordova and his group of virgins were special and holy. Instead of shielding Jane CE Doe and the other children from abuse and harm however, the Diocese of Phoenix did nothing and allowed his group to continue. The Diocese provided Fr. Cordova with access to vulnerable children and their devoted families who believed that Fr. Cordova was welcoming them into an exclusive group of chosen followers of the Catholic Church.
“Father Cordova was allowed to run rampant in the Diocese of Phoenix virtually unchecked,” said Pastor. “Even after Jane CE Doe’s family reported Cordova’s predatory conduct to the Diocese they did not report to police, and in fact Chancellor Father Michael Diskin told Doe’s mother that if she ‘insisted’ on going forward she would get a ‘reputation.’ It took another ten years before more survivors reported Fr. Cordova to police – who knows what damage this predator did during that time.”
Lawsuit Possible Under Arizona Child Victims Act (HB2466)
Jane CE Doe’s lawsuit brought today is possible because of the Arizona Child Victims Act, which went into effect in May, 2019. The law extends the time limit for sexual abuse survivors to bring lawsuits against perpetrators and the institutions that protected them. The new law gives survivors until December 30, 2020 to bring lawsuits in cases that were previously barred by the statute of limitations, no matter when the abuse occurred.
“The Arizona Child Victims Act has provided an opportunity for these courageous survivors to speak out about the horrors they suffered then and the trauma they still suffer now,” said Anderson. “We are honored to stand with them. It’s time for a reckoning in the Diocese of Phoenix. It’s time for Bishop Olmstead to come clean.”
Anderson and Pastor both want survivors to be aware that the time for Arizona survivors to bring claims under the Child Victims Act is running out. Anderson, who has represented thousands of survivors across the country who brought claims during similar windows, says it is important survivors understand that they can come forward confidentially, and safely to share their story. He says that once a window closes, that is likely the last chance most survivors will ever have to make their voices heard and to seek accountability through the legal system.
Robert Pastor is a well-known Phoenix attorney who has represented dozens of child sexual abuse survivors in Arizona. A former felony prosecutor, Mr. Pastor understands that while criminal justice may impose punishment, civil justice gives survivors the opportunity to reclaim their voice and place the shame and guilt caused by child sexual abuse squarely on the shoulders of the institutions who should be protecting children. Jeff Anderson of Jeff Anderson & Associates is one of the leading child sexual abuse attorneys in the country. He has represented hundreds of survivors over the last 37 years and pioneered the use of civil litigation to help sexual abuse survivors hold their abusers, and the institutions that protected those abusers, accountable.
Additional Case & Perpetrator Information
Fr. Cordova is ordained in Ecuador, then soon after moved to New York, then to Arizona, where the Diocese of Phoenix employs him at its Catholic Renewal Center in Phoenix, giving the predator access to young devout Catholics throughout the city and Diocese.
Fr. Cordova was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Quito, Ecuador in 1982. Just five years later, in early 1987, he was sent to work in the Archdiocese of New York “for reasons of health.” By November of that year Fr. Cordova was transferred to St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Yuma, Arizona in the Diocese of Tucson. After Fr. Cordova was charged with sexually abusing minors in the Dioceses of Tucson and Phoenix in 2005 and 2007, a former seminarian who worked at St. Francis of Assisi with him said publicly that he reported to Fr. Robert Troutman, pastor of St. Francis at the time, that Fr. Cordova would “dedicate” virgins at the parish, and that he referred to himself as Jesus Christ. The seminarian also told Fr. Troutman that Cordova often brought minor girls to his room at the rectory at all hours of the night. Fr. Troutman reportedly laughed in response to the reports and the conduct continued.
In approximately 1991 Fr. Cordova was sent to the Diocese of Phoenix, where he worked at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Glendale in 1991, and St. Augustine Parish in Phoenix from 1992 to 1993. Fr. Cordova also worked as liaison to the Diocese’s Catholic Renewal Ministries during his years in Phoenix. At Renewal Ministries, Fr. Cordova recruited young girls and boys to join a group devoting their lives to God and Fr. Cordova while they discerned whether to join the priesthood or become nuns. Fr. Cordova had several children and young women from the group living with him in an apartment in Phoenix, at the rectory at St. Augustine’s parish, and later at a home he purchased near the Renewal Center in Phoenix. The head of Catholic Renewal Ministries was aware that Fr. Cordova had several young girls and women living with him at the house and reported it to Bishop Thomas J. O’Brien. Still Fr. Cordova remained in the Diocese of Phoenix in his position.
Fr. Cordova called his followers “consecradas” and referred to himself as their father, boyfriend and lover. Fr. Cordova performed elaborate dedication ceremonies in which he made young girls he had recruited wear blue dresses, cut locks of their hair and dedicated them. Jane CE Doe described the ceremony as resembling a wedding. He told members they were part of a chosen group dedicating their lives to God, requiring them to obey and follow him as their leader. He forced some of the girls in the group to perform sexual, claiming it was God’s will. According to victims and other priests who worked with Fr. Cordova, he even referred to himself as Jesus, and altered his physical appearance to look more like him.
Jane CE Doe and her family meet Fr. Cordova at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glendale and Fr. Cordova recruits Doe and her mother into his group of followers before sexually abusing them and others over the course of years
Jane CE Doe met Fr. Cordova at a prayer group at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glendale when she was about 12 years old. Shortly after he arrived, Fr. Cordova moved the group’s meetings to the Diocese of Phoenix Catholic Renewal Center in Phoenix. Fr. Cordova became close with Jane CE Doe’s parents, and Jane CE Doe became more involved with Fr. Cordova’s group at the Renewal Center. Both Jane CE Doe and her mother began to listen to and spend time with the priest. Eventually, Fr. Cordova told Doe he had chosen her to become one of his consecrated virgins. He performed her dedication ceremony at the Renewal Center. Jane CE Doe was thrilled to be part of what she thought was such a holy group. Once she was admitted to Fr. Cordova’s group, he assigned a young adult woman who was also a member of the consecradas to serve as her “leader” in the group. It was the young woman’s job to punish Doe if she did not follow the rules. Fr. Cordova’s rules included female members of the group not being allowed to wear black or wear makeup or hairspray. Jane CE Doe said that once she was in Fr. Cordova’s group it was hard to break free, even after the sexual abuse. She said it was seen as a privilege to be chosen for the group, and Fr. Cordova was very popular among the devoutly Catholic, mostly Latino, population in the area. People did not believe that he could do anything wrong.
Jane CE Doe’s mother reports abuse by Fr. Cordova to the Diocese of Phoenix in about 1993 – still the Diocese does nothing and tells her she’ll get a “reputation” if she goes further with her allegations
Over the next two years Fr. Cordova sexually abused and spiritually manipulated Jane CE Doe and the other members of his consecrated virgin group. During this time Fr. Cordova attempted to start an inappropriate relationship with Doe’s mother and sexually assaulted her in front of others at a group meeting in about 1993. Fr. Cordova told the members of the group afterward that Jane CE Doe’s mother had placed a curse on him that caused him to sin. Soon after, Jane CE Doe’s mother tried to report Fr. Cordova to Bishop Thomas O’Brien, who refused to meet with her. Instead she reported what she knew about Fr. Cordova and the abuse to Diocese of Phoenix Chancellor Father Michael Diskin. Jane CE Doe’s mother told Fr. Diskin that Fr. Cordova sexually assaulted her, had numerous young women and children living with him who she believed were being sexually abused. Fr. Diskin did nothing, and told Jane CE Doe’s mother she would get a “reputation” if she went any further with her complaint. He asked her to write out all of her allegations in detail. Nobody from the Diocese contacted police, and Fr. Cordova was left free to prey on women and children for more than a decade.
Fr. Cordova fled to his native Ecuador after being charged with ten counts of sexual abuse in 2006. He was later charged with two more counts and arrested in Spain, but never extradited to the United States because authorities determined the allegations were “too old.”
In 2005 two women from Yuma reported to police that they had been sexually abused by Fr. Cordova in the 1980s and 1990s when they were minors and young adults, and members of Fr. Cordova’s “consecradas” group. One of the women had gone on to be Jane CE Doe’s “leader,” in charge of making sure Jane CE Doe followed Fr. Cordova’s rules. Police began to investigate immediately, and uncovered more of Fr. Cordova’s dangerous and predatory past, including the sexual abuse of Jane CE Doe and her mother. Fr. Cordova was charged with ten counts of sexual abuse of minors in Yuma, but before he could be arrested he fled to his native Ecuador. In 2007 Fr. Cordova was indicted on two more charges of sexual abuse of Jane CE Doe, and arrested near Madrid, Spain. Authorities ultimately refused to extradite the predator to Arizona, believing that the allegations were “too old” to prosecute. For years after being charged with the sexual abuse of minors in the United States and arrested, Fr. Cordova was allowed to continue functioning as a Catholic priest, posting videos of himself doing so on YouTube. One video from 2015 appears to show Fr. Cordova being honored by a bishop for his 33 years of service as a Catholic Priest.
According to the Diocese of Phoenix’s list of names of priests and deacons from other dioceses who have served in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix and who have been laicized and/or removed from ministry due to sexual misconduct with a minor, Fr. Cordova died in 2018. The Diocese does not disclose where it obtained this information.
There are 111 known abusive priests and clerics who worked in the Diocese of Phoenix
Last year, the law firm of Jeff Anderson & Associates, working with Pastor, released a report containing the identities, histories, and photographs of 109 Catholic clerics accused of child sexual abuse in the Diocese of Phoenix. They reported at the time that one of the most shocking findings among their discoveries in collecting the data for the report was evidence that some perpetrators were transferred and retained in trusted positions with direct access to children even after Church leadership knew they were alleged abusers. Anderson and Pastor said modern means of analysis, evidence uncovered in other litigation, and the growing movement of survivors reclaiming their voice is exposing perpetrators who operated in the geographical boundaries of this Diocese.
“Until the Diocese fulfills its promise of transparency and accountability children remain in grave danger,” said Anderson.
Historically, the Diocese of Phoenix knew of priests who were perpetrators and posed a significant danger to children. The sexual abuse of children has long been a crime in Arizona. However, Church officials chose and continue to keep these crimes hidden, allowing its priests continued and unfettered access to children. In 2003, Bishop Thomas O’Brien (Bishop of Phoenix 1982-2003) admitted that he protected pedophile priests instead of protecting children. Bishop O’Brien admitted in a written agreement with criminal prosecutors that he allowed priests under his supervision to continue to work with children after becoming aware of allegations they had sexually abused minors. It is unknown how many children were sexually abused in the Diocese of Phoenix as a result of these dangerous practices and the systemic cover-up of clergy sexual abuse.
“There is no question that there are more priests out there who did great harm to children in Arizona and were never held accountable for it,” said Anderson. “Time is running out to expose these predator priests and those who protected them over the children entrusted to their care. It’s time for survivors of abuse in the Diocese of Phoenix to speak up, speak out, and take action.”