29 Nov 2010

Case of priest charged with sex assault of girl in U.S. but still serving in India undermines Vatican's defense of Benedict

New York Times - April 5, 2010

Priest Charged in U.S. Is Still Serving in India


A Catholic priest who has been criminally charged with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in Minnesota six years ago is still working in his home diocese in India despite warnings to the Vatican from an American bishop that the priest continued to pose a risk to children, according to church documents made public on Monday.

The documents show that the American bishop warned the Vatican that the priest was accused of molesting two teenage girls whose trust he gained by promising to discuss their interest in becoming nuns.

A county attorney in Minnesota is seeking to extradite the priest from India in a criminal case that involves one of the girls, who said the priest had forced her to perform oral sex and had threatened her and her family.

The case took place during the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, who has recently come under fire for his role in cases of sexually abusive priests in Germany and Wisconsin.

The case was handled after the Vatican clarified and streamlined its procedures in 2001 to respond to accusations of sexual abuse by priests. In the midst of a growing scandal, the Vatican has sought to defend the pope by pointing out that he was both an architect and a promoter of these procedures.

But the Vatican also says it defers to local bishops to decide how to treat accused priests, leaving it exposed to criticism that the church is not doing enough to rein in sexually abusive priests.

In 2006, the Vatican recommended that the priest simply be monitored, a document shows. A lawyer for the Holy See said in a statement that the Vatican had recommended that the priest be defrocked, but that canon law specifies that the decision rests with the local bishop. The bishop in India sentenced the priest to a year of prayer in a monastery rather than seeking his removal from the priesthood, according to documents and interviews.

The priest, the Rev. Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul, was working temporarily in the Diocese of Crookston, Minn., which like many United States dioceses is bringing in priests from India because there are not enough American priests to serve its parishes. Father Jeyapaul ministered to three parishes simultaneously in Crookston, where he was accused of misappropriating church funds as well as sexual abuse.

A lawyer for the Holy See, Jeffrey Lena, said in a statement on Monday that the Vatican had cooperated with law enforcement authorities seeking the priest’s extradition and had provided the location of the priest in India.

Lisa B. Hanson, the county attorney in Roseau, Minn., said, “Maybe all this attention has gotten them to change their tune, and if that’s the case we’ll take their cooperation.”

Mr. Lena also said that the Vatican office in charge of handling abuse cases, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had recommended laicization, which is removal from the priesthood.

Mr. Lena said in the statement: “The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith suggested in this matter that Father Jeyapaul agree to laicization, demonstrating that the Congregation believed that the accusations were serious enough to merit dismissal from the clerical state. However, as a matter of longstanding canon law, such decisions are made by the local bishop, who is deemed to be generally in the best position to adjudicate the case relating to the priest in question.” He declined to provide any documents on the case.

The bishop of Ootacamund, India, Arulappan Amalraj, told The Associated Press, which first reported the news on Monday, that Father Jeyapaul had no contact with children and would remain in the diocesan offices.

“We cannot simply throw out the priest, so he is just staying in the bishop’s house, and he is helping me with the appointment of teachers,” the bishop said. “He says he is innocent, and these are only allegations. I don’t know what else to do.”

Father Jeyapaul told The A.P., “It is a false accusation against me. I do not know the girl at all.”

The criminal complaint from Minnesota said that the 14-year-old girl, whose name is redacted, was praying after school at Blessed Sacrament Church in Greenbush, Minn., when Father Jeyapaul told her to come into the rectory. The girl claimed that when she refused to touch his genitals, he told her it was a sin and said he “could make her life miserable.” She said he then pushed her down onto a couch, touched her breasts and pulled down his pants.

The woman, now 20, has brought a lawsuit against the Diocese of Crookston. The documents were released in a news conference on Monday by her lawyers, Jeff Anderson and Mike Finnegan, the same lawyers who gave documents last month to The New York Times on another case involving a Wisconsin priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys.

The former bishop of Crookston, Victor H. Balke, wrote to Cardinal William J. Levada, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in 2005, requesting that the Congregation handle the case itself.

“I cannot in good conscience allow this matter to be passed over because the cleric has left my territory,” Bishop Balke wrote. “In my mind that would be a shameful act of betrayal towards the women and girls in India to whom Fr. Jeyapaul could at present pose a serious risk.”

He received a letter back in May 2006 from Archbishop Angelo Amato, in the Vatican, saying that the Congregation conveyed the facts to the bishop in India “with the request that Father Jayapaul’s priestly life be monitored so that he does not constitute a risk to minors and does not create scandal among the faithful.”

Bishop Balke subsequently sent two more letters to Cardinal Levada informing him that a second alleged victim had come forward with more serious allegations, that criminal charges had been filed and that the county attorney wanted to extradite Father Jeyapaul. He pleaded for quick action. Bishop Balke also wrote to the Vatican’s top diplomat to the United States, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, who provided the address of Father Jeyapaul in India, to give to the county attorney.

Church offices were closed on Easter Monday, and officials in the Diocese of Crookston did not respond to messages left by phone and e-mail.

Daniel J. Wakin contributed reporting from Rome, Lydia Polgreen from New Delhi and Christina Capecchi from St. Paul.

This article was found at: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/06/world/europe/06church.html


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Catholic theologian says secrecy, misogyny and resistance to reform in wake of clergy sex scandals will doom the church


  1. Second woman sues Crookston diocese over sex abuse claims involving priest on loan from India

    by Rose French, Star Tribune, Minnesota June 14, 2012

    A Catholic priest on loan from India who served in the Diocese of Crookston is accused in a lawsuit filed Wednesday of sexually abusing a minor girl in 2005.

    The plaintiff in the new suit, identified as Jane Doe 122, is the second woman to sue the diocese over claims of abuse by the Rev. Joseph Jeyapaul. The priest was serving at the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Greenbush when the alleged abuse occurred.

    Attorney Jeff Anderson, who’s represented hundreds of victims in clergy sex abuse cases, announced the lawsuit filed in Roseau County court at a news conference Thursday at his law offices in St. Paul.

    Anderson said Jane Doe was in her mid-teens at the time of the abuse, which occurred at the church rectory. She has also reported the charges to police authorities in Roseau County, Anderson said.

    The Diocese of Crookston could not immediately be reached for comment about the lawsuit on Thursday.

    In September, Megan Peterson, now 22, settled a civil lawsuit against the diocese for $750,000 and provisions that required the diocese to warn Catholics in India of Jeyapaul’s history and provide child protection and outreach to other potential victims in the diocese.

    Peterson attended the news conference and spoke in support of Jane Doe. She also recounted being abused by Jeypaul in 2005 in the church confessional.

    Jeyapaul returned to India before criminal charges involving Peterson’s case were filed in 2006. He has denied the allegations and had been in active ministry in India working with children for years, according to reports there and here.

    In March, Jeyapaul was arrested in India and appeared before a court in New Delhi on the sex abuse charges. He remains incarcerated in the country and awaits extradition to Minnesota to face abuse charges, Anderson said.


  2. The Vatican Just Put a Convicted Rapist Back in a Parish

    This may be the worst case we’ve ever seen. What does a priest have to do to get kicked out of the Catholic Church?

    by Barbie Latza Nadeau, Daily Beast March 23, 016

    ROME — Just what is it that the Vatican does not get about predator priests? Apparently a lot.

    Father Joseph Jeyapaul is a priest from India who admitted to raping two adolescent girls in Minnesota when he served the Crookston diocese from 2004 to 2005.

    After being charged with the abuse, which included rape and forcing at least one of the girls to perform fellatio on him, he fled home to India, where he was eventually arrested on an Interpol warrant. He was then extradited back to Minnesota, where he admitted his heinous crimes and entered a plea bargain in which, in exchange for a lighter sentence, he copped to molestation of one of the girls.

    Jeyapaul was suspended from the priesthood and served a year and a day in prison in Minnesota, then was deported back to India after his release last July. The Minnesota diocese where he worked also settled a civil lawsuit with the victims in which one accused him of systematic abuse in the confessional of the Blessed Sacrament Church in Greenbush, Minnesota, where he would then tell the girl it was her fault, that she had made him “impure.”

    How much more proof would one need that the man cannot be trusted with minors?

    Apparently, Jeyapaul’s rap sheet is not enough to kick him out of the priesthood for good. In February, the Vatican approved lifting his suspension from the priesthood and agreed that he could be reassigned to a new parish in India. That parish even made him the diocesan head of its commission for education.

    “We are not only disgusted and alarmed, but we realize there is a serious danger,” Minnesota attorney Jeff Anderson said during a press conference last week. “Pope Francis has broken a pledge. This priest is a predator who needs to be stopped, and they have chosen not to stop him.”

    Anderson, who has been at the forefront of the legal battle for victims of clerical sex abuse in Minnesota, is involved because he represents one of the victims Jeyapaul went to prison for abusing. Megan Peterson, now 26, has stepped forward to tell her story to protect children. She asked Anderson to file a public danger (nuisance) federal lawsuit against the Ootacamund diocese in Tamil Nadu, India.

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  3. Standing by Anderson this week at the press conference, she said that when she heard that the Vatican had lifted Jeyapaul’s suspension for crimes against her, she felt “abused, degraded and re-victimized all over again.”

    Peterson is asking the Indian diocese for more than $75,000 in damages for making her relive her trauma by forgiving her abuser in what is seen as a legal attempt to get the Indian diocese to rethink allowing Jeyapaul to start his new job.

    “Children deserve to be protected in India and nobody is doing this at this point," Peterson said at the televised press conference. "This pope has said that bishops who cover up [sexual abuse] and the offending clerics have no place in the church. I feel like this is a slap in the face."

    Peterson is not the only one calling foul. The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) says this is the last straw.
    “It may be the most irresponsible Vatican move we’ve ever seen: Catholic officials in Rome have lifted the suspension of a recently convicted predator priest,” SNAP’s outreach director Barbara Dorris said in a statement. “We are stunned and saddened by such blatant recklessness and callousness.”

    Dorris added that the survivors are grateful that Peterson filed the lawsuit, which she referred to as a “novel approach” to trying to protect children from known predators by taking legal action to expose predators the church has reinstated or protected.
    Still, it gives one pause to think that the Vatican could turn such a blind eye to a case in which the priest admitted to abusing minors and was sentenced in a secular court.

    “I say this carefully and only after considerable thought,” David Clohessy, SNAP’s director told The Daily Beast. “The Jeyapaul case is the worst case we’ve seen.”

    Whether Jeyapaul’s new diocese will consider the lawsuit and refuse to let the errant priest keep his job is of great concern to Anderson and victims alike.

    “The Vatican under Pope Francis and the Bishop in India have both made the decision to permit this predator to continue in ministry after his conviction for child sex abuse and are promoting him as safe and trustworthy and holy,” Anderson said. “And as we speak, there are hundreds of children who we know trust him and believe him to be trustworthy.”