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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Monday, April 5, 2010
Priest accused of US abuse still working in India; sex abuse victims respond
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis MO (USA) Director of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, SNAPnetwork.org)
What kind of institution lets a fugitive child molester live with a top official, while both of them thumb their noses at law enforcement?
Frankly, we’re not sure we believe that abuse reports against Jeyapaul only surfaced after he was sent back to India, or that he’s not around kids right now. His bishop claims he has a bureaucratic job, and isn't around kids. In our experience, however, any time a predator priest is not in jail, especially when he's been sent elsewhere, around families that likely don't know of the charges against him, any prudent person would assume he has access to kids. This is especially true when he can tell parents, as Jeyapaul can, 'I'm living with the bishop and in charge of education for this diocese.'" We often hear Catholic staff claim that a pedophile priest is sick or has Alzheimer's or is closely supervised, only to find out that in fact this isn't really the case.
We challenge church officials to release documents to prove their contention that Vatican staff actually did ask the India bishop to ‘monitor’ Jeyapaul, and that the India bishop actually did do outreach to parishes where Jeyapaul worked. It’s easy to claim these steps were taken, but church officials are providing nothing to prove these claims.
We also challenge Crookston’s bishop to work harder to find anyone with knowledge of Jeyapaul’s crimes and use the collective political clout of America’s bishops to lean on governmental officials to get this predator extradited.
Finally, one need not go overseas to find cases where predator priests are still working. Just last week, Barbara Bradley of National Public Radio in the US did a story about two US priests who were convicted by juries of molesting kids, who were put back into active ministry. One of them (Fr. Michael Fugee) was suspended again in November, after the Newark Star Ledger reported that he had been quietly made a hospital chaplain. The other, Fr. Eric Swearingen, still works in a California parish today. (NOTE-in each case, mistrials were eventually declared, but not before juries deemed the priests guilty.)
Three other points:
- The AP reports that Jeyapaul lives in “the bishop's house, where he is in charge of compiling seniority lists for teachers in the diocese's schools.” But an official diocesan newsletter in India suggests he’s visiting schools. (See records provided at news conference)
- The AP initially reported that “Vatican officials warned church officials in India to monitor a Catholic priest charged with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in Minnesota, but four years later he continues to work in his home diocese. . .” Only one official in India, however, was (or may have been) contacted by Vatican.
-The AP initially reported that “Vatican officials warned church officials. . .” But only one Vatican official claimed that he only "requested" that one India bishop "monitor" Jeyapaul. It was a two-sentence letter, not a “warning” in any real sense whatsoever.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 22 years and have more than 9,000 members across the country. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, 314-645-5915 home), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Peter Isely (414-429-7259), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell)
Priest accused of US abuse still working in India
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Top officials at the Vatican were warned more than four years ago about a Catholic priest later charged with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in Minnesota, according to newly released Vatican correspondence, but to this day he continues to work in his home diocese in India.
Prosecutors in Minnesota said Monday they are trying to extradite the Rev. Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul. Jeyapaul denied the abuse allegations and said he has no plans to return to the U.S. to face the courts.
His current bishop, the Most Rev. A. Almaraj of the diocese of Ootacamund in southern India, said Jeyapaul works in his office processing teacher appointments for a dozen church schools and does not work with children.
In a May 2006 letter to the Bishop Victor Balke of the Diocese of Crookston, Minnesota, Archbishop Angelo Amato wrote that Jeyapaul's bishop had been instructed to monitor him "so that he does not constitute a risk to minors and does not create scandal."
Amato was secretary to Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handles all abuse cases. In subsequent letters, Balke warned both Levada and a top Vatican official in the U.S. about Jeyapaul. "It is difficult for me to quantify the harm that this man has done to the dignity of the priesthood," Balke wrote to Levada on Dec. 21, 2006.
The letters are among evidence against Jeyapaul provided to The Associated Press by Jeff Anderson, the attorney for Jeyapaul's accuser.
Jeyapaul is wanted in the U.S. on two counts of criminal sexual conduct stemming from accusations he assaulted a young, female parishioner in the fall of 2004 at the Blessed Sacrament Church in Greenbush, where he was working. Each charge carries a sentence of up to 30 years.
According to the criminal complaint, the teenage girl accused Jeyapaul of threatening to kill her family if she did not come into the rectory, where he then forced her to perform oral sex on him and groped her.
"It is a false accusation against me," Jeyapaul told the AP in a phone interview. "I do not know that girl at all."
Lisa Hanson, the prosecutor in northern Minnesota's Roseau County, said her office is in the process of trying to extradite Jeyapaul. She wouldn't provide specifics on the timing or approach but said her office has been working with the U.S. Justice Department.
"He's charged with serious felonies here in this country," Hanson said. "We want justice for the victim here and we want to do whatever we can to protect potential future victims everywhere."
Almaraj said the Vatican did not take any part in disciplining Jeyapaul. He received only a minor punishment.
"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," Almaraj said. "He says he is innocent, and these are only allegations. ... I don't know what else to do."
Anderson held a news conference Monday to draw attention to the Jeyapaul case, demanding he be suspended and returned to the U.S. to face justice.
"Everyone knew there was a serious problem, but they chose not to ask and they chose not to tell," Anderson said.
The Vatican has denounced such accusations and has blamed the media for what it calls a smear campaign against the pope and his advisers.
The Vatican has insisted Pope Benedict XVI takes such accusations seriously and cracked down on abuse in 2001 by ordering dioceses to inform the Vatican of all such cases. However, the Vatican hasn't issued any guidelines requiring bishops to heed civil authorities, though it insists nothing in its directives precludes such cooperation.
Almaraj said the church had never discussed asking Jeyapaul to return to the United States to appear in court.
"No steps were taken. Nobody talked about that. Nobody asked about that," Almaraj said.
Officials at India's Foreign Ministry were not immediately available to discuss whether the U.S. asked for Jeyapaul's extradition. The two countries do have an agreement.
At the time the accusations against Jeyapaul first surfaced in 2005, the priest had returned home to visit his ailing mother and officials in Minnesota's Crookston diocese told him he should stay in India, Jeyapaul said.
"My mother told me to remain here, and the (Crookston) bishop also told me not to come back, because these allegations have come against you," he said.
On Dec. 21, 2006, Balke wrote about the accusations against Jeyapaul to both Levada and the Most Rev. Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio, the Vatican's ambassador, to the United States.
"I hope that for the good of the Church you are able to reach a speedy resolution to this case," he wrote to Levada, according to a letter obtained by AP.
A week later, Rev. Sambi wrote to Bishop Balke: "I assure you that this material has already been forwarded to the Holy See."
Officials in the Diocese of Crookston, which was closed Monday, did not immediately respond to a phone message.
Charges against Jeyapaul were filed in January 2007.
It's not clear what actions, if any, the Vatican took. Alamaraj said the Vatican was informed of his disciplinary actions against Jeyapaul but had no input.
Almaraj said he sent Jeyapaul to a monastery for a year of prayer and asked the local parishes where the priest had worked previously if there were any prior cases of possible abuse. None came to light, he said.
Almaraj then assigned Jeyapaul to the bishop's house, where he is in charge of compiling seniority lists for teachers in the diocese's schools.
Nessman reported from New Delhi.
(This version CORRECTS that St. Paul news conference was held by Jeff Anderson.)
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests