The priest who once led a prominent vocational program for Latino men interested in the priesthood has been arrested on child pornography charges, NBC 5 has learned.
Father Octavio Munoz, of Casa Jesus, was ordered held on $50,000 bond Wednesday after being charged with one felony count of child pornography, according to the Cook County State's Attorney's Office and Chicago police.
It has taken more than a year to finalize the charges against 40-year-old Munoz, who was removed from ministry in August of 2015. At that time he was pastor of St. Pancratius Church in Brighton Park, only serving there for a few months. Before that assignment, for 7 years Munoz was the rector of Casa Jesus, an Archdiocese program for young Hispanic men considering the priesthood. Munoz, who was currently living in Maryland, was brought back to Chicago to face charges.
Over the years, Munoz traveled to Latin America at the Archdiocese’s expense to invite young men to apply to Casa Jesus. But in 2015, he was transferred and sent to rehab, according to multiple sources, after pornography was allegedly discovered on his computer.
The Cook County State's Attorney's office says an archdiocese employee initially discovered the child pornography on Munoz's computer. Archdiocese officials contacted a private investigative firm first -- which conducted an internal investigation -- nearly two weeks before the Archdiocese informed local law enforcement.
As NBC 5 first reported this week, Archbishop Blase Cupich quietly suspended the Casa Jesus program in April, but did not disclose that to the public. NBC 5 and Telemundo Chicago also revealed in November 2015 that three seminarians were removed from the program after allegations they attended a gay bar while studying in Jerusalem.
Two other priests tied to the program were also removed from the Archdiocese after questions over sexual misconduct.
Father Marco Mercado, the director of Our Lady of Guadalupe in DesPlaines, was removed after allegations of sexual misconduct and Fr. Clovis Vilchez Parra, an assistant pastor in Arlington Heights, is facing child pornography charges in Cook County after being arrested in February 2015.
Munoz was in police custody Wednesday and unable to respond to a request for comment. It was not immediately clear if he had an attorney.
If convicted, he could receive probation or up to seven years in prison.