Ex-Arlington Heights pastor still in priesthood after no-contest plea in sex case

 
 
Updated 3/11/2019 10:26 PM
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  • The Rev. Diego Berrio, here leading a Good Friday Living Stations of the Cross ceremony last year when he was pastor of Mision San Diego in Arlington Heights, remains a priest after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor alleging he engaged in a sex act with another priest along Miami Beach's famed Ocean Drive in September.

      The Rev. Diego Berrio, here leading a Good Friday Living Stations of the Cross ceremony last year when he was pastor of Mision San Diego in Arlington Heights, remains a priest after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor alleging he engaged in a sex act with another priest along Miami Beach's famed Ocean Drive in September. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer, 2018

Archdiocese of Chicago officials say a former Arlington Heights pastor remains a priest after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor alleging he engaged in a sex act with another priest while in a car parked on Miami Beach's famed Ocean Drive.

The Rev. Diego Berrio, 39, who served a little more than two years as pastor of Mision San Diego on Wilke Road, paid $453 in court costs after entering the no-contest plea on a charge of lewd and lascivious behavior, Miami-Dade County court records show.

Edwin Giraldo Cortes, a 31-year-old extern priest from Colombia, South America, pleaded no contest to indecent exposure and lewd and lascivious behavior, records show. Although police reports list Cortes' address as Mision San Diego in Arlington Heights, Archdiocese spokeswoman Paula Waters said he wasn't authorized to live there.

Terry Gonzalez-Chavez, a spokeswoman for the Miami-Dade state attorney's office, said while not admitting guilt, the priests didn't dispute the charges. Records show the pleas were entered in November.

Berrio remains a priest, but has been removed from ministry and his faculties withdrawn, which means he cannot celebrate Mass or the sacraments in public, Waters said. She said he's living at "a church residence outside of the archdiocese."

"Father Berrio is receiving the pastoral support he needs away from the archdiocese," Waters said. "There is no fixed time limit to this support." Miami Beach police reports say officers were sent to the 1300 block of Ocean Drive at 3:05 p.m. Sept. 3, after a 25-year-old man reported what turned out to be Berrio performing a sex act on Cortes in the front passenger seat of a rented black Volkswagen. The priests were parked in a section of the famous street near a public park and beach, according to police reports.

"Berrio and Giraldo did not immediately notice my presence," Miami Beach police Officer Elizabeth Vidal wrote in a report obtained by the Daily Herald. "I then went around the vehicle and approached on the driver's side. To get their attention, I was forced to knock on the window."

Miami attorney Thomas Risavy, who represented Berrio, declined to discuss the case or say where the priest is living. He said the second-degree misdemeanor will not be on Berrio's record.

Berrio, who previously served at St. Edna Catholic Church on Arlington Heights' north side, was assigned as Mision San Diego's pastor in June 2016. He had been pastor at St. Domitilla Parish in Hillside before returning to Arlington Heights, according to the archdiocese.

Archdiocese officials announced Berrio's removal as Mision San Diego's pastor after his arrest.

Cortes was granted faculties at St. Aloysius Parish in Chicago throughout August 2018 on the recommendation of the diocese in Soacha, Columbia. Waters said Cortes is not part of the Archdiocese of Chicago and that the church does not know his whereabouts.

A spokeswoman from the Miami-Dade public defender's office, which represented Cortes, didn't respond to a message seeking comment.

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