MN--Notorious Indian priest pleads guilty of child sex crimes; SNAP responds
For immediate release: Friday May 22
Fr. Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul - who worked in two Minnesota dioceses: St. Paul and Crookston - has pled guilty to child sex crimes. We’re glad that it’s now crystal clear to virtually everyone that he’s a dangerous man who should be kept away from kids.
But we’re deeply worried that he may soon be free and will likely be around unsuspecting families and assault more children. (He has yet to be sentenced.) And if that happens, the blame can squarely be put on US and Indian Catholic officials who have acted irresponsibly from the outset in this terrible case.
Few child molesters in history have been as widely exposed as Fr. Jeyapaul, thanks to the tireless and courageous prevention efforts of one of his victims, Megan Peterson. Still, most of his neighbors, relatives and colleagues likely know little or nothing about his crimes.
Megan has done almost everything possible – and more than perhaps any survivor we know - to protect kids from this monster. She filed a civil lawsuit, repeatedly cooperated with law enforcement, and even travelled to Geneva where she told a United Nations panel how Crookston Catholic officials acted recklessly, callously, hurtfully and deceptively in this case. She has courageously, generously and effectively taken worked hard and taken risks to make it much harder for Fr. Jeyapaul to hurt more girls or boys. We are incredibly proud of her and grateful to her.
When child sex abuse allegations against Fr. Jeyapaul surfaced, he quickly returned to India. We suspect that Crookston Catholic officials helped him flee. (According to BishopAccountability.org, Minnesota Catholic officials “knew of rumors about inappropriate behavior by Fr. Jeyapaul in 8/04” but Fr. Jeyapaul “suddenly returned to India in 9/05.”)
In India, Catholic officials gave him a job overseeing schools knowing full well that he was considered a fugitive from US criminal authorities.
Twice, United Nations panels have harshly criticized Vatican officials for their refusal to help law enforcement apprehend Fr. Jeyapaul, We worry now about the safety of girls in India near Fr. Jeyapaul. Now that his guilt has been proven, we call on Catholic officials in both the US and India to use their massive resources to warn police, prosecutors, parishioners, parents and the public about this dangerous cleric (using pulpit announcements, parish bulletins, church websites and other means).
Fr. Jeyapaul is one of an increasing number of accused predator priests who have been allowed to flee to other countries despite credible child sex abuse reports or sometimes arrest warrants. (A priest from India was just suspended in Toledo Ohio today because of allegations involving a child.)
Besides Megan, at least one other brave victim of Fr. Jeyapaul has helped law enforcement too (and has filed a civil suit). We are grateful to her as well. (We suspect there are others who remain trapped in shame, silence, secrecy and self-blame.) And we are grateful to law enforcement – in the US and in India – for pursuing this dangerous predator.
It’s tragic that it took so much time and international pressure – from victims, journalists and law enforcement - to get Catholic officials to simply honor their legal obligation and get a predator priest back to America to face justice.
Bishops in Minnesota and India have protected and continue to protect this serial child predator, by paying him, moving him, and concealing records about him and his crimes. Shame on them.
And shame on every Vatican official who has refused to take action to safeguard children from Fr. Jeyapaul.
We call on every Catholic employee and parishioner – in Minnesota and in India – who has suspicions or knowledge of Jeyapaul’s crimes to overcome their fears, show real courage, and tell law enforcement whatever
It’s possible that Fr. Jeyapaul could be prosecuted again. That chance will go up if Catholic officials begin to act responsibly and aggressively seek out others who were hurt by him. But we doubt that will happen.
So we appeal to current and former church employees and members – in St. Paul, Crookston, and India – to follow Jesus’ admonition to reach out to the lost and wounded sheep.
It’s especially crucial that the Crookston church hierarchy – Bishop Michael Hoeppner, Msgr. David Baumgartner ([email protected] crookston.org), Bonnie Sullivan ([email protected]) and Jim Clauson ([email protected], 218-281-4533, ext. 423) – show compassion and take action. Retired Bishop Victor Balke, who brought Fr. Jeyapaul into the diocese, also has an obligation to act.
But regardless of what higher Catholic officials do or don’t do, rank and file parishioners and parish employees – especially at the places Fr. Jeyapaul worked - should honor their moral and legal duties to speak up with whatever they know or suspect about child sex crimes by Crookston area clerics or cover ups by their church colleagues. Those churches include St. Bernard in Thief River Falls, Blessed Sacrament in Greenbush, St. Joseph in Middle River, and St. Edward in Karlstad.
NOTE – A photo of Fr. Jeyapaul is available at BishopAccountability.org. Other publicly accused Crookston area predator priests include Fr. Stanley C. Bourassa, Fr. Richard (Rick) Boyd, Fr. Henry G. Carriere, Fr. Gerald K. (Jerry) Foley, Fr. J. Vincent Fitzgerald, Fr. James Porter and Fr. Francis R. (Frank) Reid.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. 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, [email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-503-0003 cell, [email protected]), Verne Wagner, Northern Minnesota SNAP director (218-340-1277, [email protected]), Frank Meuers, Twin Cities SNAP director (952-334-5180, [email protected])