San Antonio Catholic priest arrested; SNAP worried about his frequent assignment changes
For immediate release: September 27, 2023
On Tuesday in Texas, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar reported the arrest of a Catholic priest who had worked in numerous parishes in the San Antonio Archdiocese since 2017. The clergyman has been accused of raping a woman in her seventies on multiple occasions. SNAP is grateful for this prosecution, but believes that the cleric's frequent transfers are a major red flag.
Fr. George Mbugua Ndungu, also known as Fr. Wanjiru, has been charged with aggravated sexual assault. According to the Sheriff, an accusation of improper behavior by the priest was first brought to the attention of the Archdiocese by a church employee. In the subsequent Archdiocesan investigation, the elderly parishioner came forward.
While it is encouraging to see law enforcement pursue Catholic clerics who are accused of sexually assaulting adults, we take issue with Sheriff Salazar’s comment that “it is common for priests like Ndungu to be transferred to different churches every so often.” To us, frequent transfers, especially in the short time frame since 2017, are a red flag. We fear the frequent moves may signal other abuse and we encourage law enforcement to visit each of the parishes where Fr. Ndungu was assigned to urge other victims to come forward. Secular investigations in Maryland, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Michigan showed that Church officials used expedited transfers of known abusers as a way to prevent scandal. In reality, these transfers enabled abusers to gain access to additional victims.
Fr. Ndungu is a native of Kenya. His assignment history in the Archdiocese was as follows:
- 2017: Our Lady of Good Counsel
- 2017: St. Martin De Porres
- 2017: St. Gabriel
- 2018: St. Ann
- 2018: St. Mary's
- 2019: St. Peter and Paul
- 2021: St. Thomas the Apostle
- 2021-2023: St. Rose of Lima
We are grateful to the brave women who reported these horrendous crimes to law enforcement. Children and adults are safest when victims go directly to secular authorities, not to the Church. Every person who saw, suspected, or suffered misdeeds by Fr. Ndungu or anyone else in the Archdiocese should come forward and make a report to the sheriff or to the police. There is no need to suffer alone and in silence. There are people who will believe you and support you.
CONTACT: Patti Koo, SNAP San Antonio Leader ([email protected] , 956-648-7385), Zac Zepeda, SNAP San Antonio Leader ([email protected], 210-317-7511), Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Director ([email protected], 925-708-6175), Mike McDonnell, SNAP Interim Executive Director ([email protected], 267- 261-0578), Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board President ([email protected], 814-341-8386)
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 35 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)