Priest Jeyapaul’s victim Megan speaks to TNM: Church ignores sex crimes, or worse, hides them

Reinstating Jeyapaul back into priesthood is a disservice and a danger to children in India.’

By Geetika Mantri

megan and jeyapaul

On Tuesday, Megan Peterson, a US citizen and a victim of sexual assault at the hands of church priest Joseph Jeyapaul, filed a lawsuit against him at the Minnesota federal court. Jeyapaul was accused of rape and sexual assault, pleaded guilty and was sentenced for a jail term spanning a year and a day. He was then deported to India in July 2015. However, barely six months later, he was reinstated as the head of the diocese of the commission for education in Ootacamund with the Vatican’s approval.

Megan Peterson, her attorney Jeff Anderson and the organisation SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) have since been trying to draw attention to the case. “I felt abused and degraded and victimsed all over again. it felt like a slap in the face to myself and to the other survivors of clergy sex abuse across the globe,” she had said in a statement earlier, speaking about Jeyapaul being reinstated to the ministry.

In an exclusive and detailed interview to The News Minute, Megan tells us why this case needs more attention and asks that Jeyapaul not be reinstated.

Q:  You have fought a long and hard legal and personal battle against Jeyapaul. What do you have to say about him being reinstated as a priest and head of the diocese of commission for education in India?

Megan: Reinstating Jeyapaul back into priesthood is a disservice and a danger to children in India. Children are put at risk by putting a convicted, admitted sex offender back into the ministry and at a position of authority. I don’t want another child to go through what I have been through.

Q: What is your message to Bishop Amalraj, who reinstated Jeyapaul to the ministry?

Megan: Reverse your decision, disclose who in the Vatican approved such a reckless move, put Fr. Jeyapaul in a remote, secure treatment center for sex offenders where he’ll be very closely monitored. Aggressively seek out others he has hurt and prod them to call police.

Q: Do you think there should be more dialogue in India about this case so as to set a precedent for the Indian Church as well?

Megan: Absolutely! Open dialogue, transparency and accountability of officials and offenders are key in moving forward and protecting others. By having these discussions, survivors in India may also feel safer, supported and therefore encouraged to come forward.

Q: You were very courageous in deciding to publically fight this case. What sort of response did you get from the Church and the authorities?

Megan: When I was a teen and was being violated by Joseph Jeyapaul, I reached out to the church officials. They hung up on me. It has been an uphill battle ever since, trying to get church officials to do the right thing and to protect children. Clearly, that is still the scenario. Despite my efforts for the past 12 years, they have made the decision to reinstate a convicted sex offender.

Q: Do you think religious values of piousness and purity also play a role in victim-shaming, preventing them from speaking up about abuse at the hands of a priest?

Megan: I can only speak for myself but personally it was very difficult to come forward and talk about abuse at the hands of the priest. I was embarrassed and ashamed. I believed it was my fault and that I had committed a grave sin. Many times after the abuse Fr. Jeyapaul would have me confess my sins to him and he would give me a penance to absolve me of my sins.

I believe that because of their position of authority as being a direct link to God in Catholicism makes it harder to come forward. People may not want to believe that a “holy person” could commit such a grave act of abuse.

Q:  As children, parents and as a community, what can we do to look out for cases of such gross abuse and prevent them?

Megan: It is important to have discussions with the youth about good touch and bad touch. Open dialogue at an early age ensures that if something does occur, they would feel safe speaking to their parents or another trustworthy adult.

Also, sexual predators will groom their victims before the abuse. Watch out for the signs. When victims do come forward, community support helps. This would also encourage other survivors of sex abuse to do the same.

Q: The existence of an organisation like SNAP proves that this is not an isolated case. What do you think allows sexual predators like Jeyapaul to go unrecognized and unpunished?

Megan: Predators like Fr. Jeyapaul are usually shrewd and personable. They are often outgoing and charming; their supervisors and colleagues are more concerned with their own comfort, convenience and careers. So, they do what’s easiest and most tempting – they ignore child sex crimes, or worse, they hide them. This practice is what protects predators and endangers kids.

 Complete Article HERE!

Missing Florida priest’s body found

Missing priest Father Rene Robert.
Missing priest Father Rene Robert.

The body of Florida priest Rev. Rene Wayne Robert, who disappeared last week, has been found in Georgia.

St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar confirmed during a Monday night news conference that Robert’s remains had been found, and that “it was obvious that he was the victim of homicidal violence.”

Robert was last seen Sunday, April 10, as he went to visit a patient at Orange Park Medical Center, CBS affiliate WJAX reported.

An emotional Shoar called Robert a dear friend and described the investigation as the most intense of his career.

“I just really wish we had better news tonight,” he said.

Robert was found in Waynesboro — 300 miles from where he disappeared in St. Augustine, Florida — after a man arrested while driving the priest’s car led police there, Shoar said at a news conference.

Steven James Murray, 28, was arrested Wednesday night in Aiken, S.C., with numerous weapons in the St. Augustine-based priest’s car.

Rene Robert (left) and Steven James Murray

hoar said he expected Murray would be charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping.

The sheriff said motive was unclear at this point but the Franciscan priest had tried to help Murray, who the sheriff characterized as a “career criminal,” after he was recently released from jail.

Investigators think Robert was killed April 10, the last night he was seen. A cause of death has yet to be determined.

Robert’s body was to be transported to a crime lab in Atlanta. The body was found four miles off Highway 56 around 7:30 p.m. Monday in Waynesboro, Georgia.

Aiken County Sheriff’s spokesman Eric Abdullah wrote in an statement that deputies and U.S. marshals responded to Murray’s last known location Wednesday afternoon. As they approached the 2012 blue Toyota Corolla with Florida license plates, Murray drove away and crashed into a tree, then fled on foot, Abdullah wrote. Bloodhounds and a helicopter tracked Murray down and he was arrested, according to the statement.

Murray was extradited to Florida and booked into the St. Johns County Jail late Friday night. Over the weekend, a large scale search for Father Rene was conducted on the Westside of Jacksonville, WJAX reported.

During the investigation, SJSO investigators “developed a rapport” with Murray, who led them to “several locations involved in this case to include where a body was found” on Monday, according to a release from SJSO.

Shoar said authorities are convinced the homicide happened in Georgia, so the charges will come from that jurisdiction.

Murray also faces a kidnapping charge in Duval County, Shoar said.

Complete Article HERE!

Priest Who Stole $300k to Remain in Jail After 1st Parole

A Roman Catholic priest who served as the face of the church in New Hampshire during the sex abuse scandal was granted parole Tuesday on two of his convictions for stealing $300,000 from a hospital, a bishop and a dead priest’s estate. But he’ll still serve at least two more years in jail to complete his full sentence.

Monsignor Edward Arsenault pleaded guilty to three theft charges in 2014. He was granted parole on the first two charges but will not be eligible for parole on the third for two more years.

Catholic Health Assembly Philadelphia 2012. IN THIS PHOTO: Monday morning
Catholic Health Assembly Philadelphia 2012.
IN THIS PHOTO: Monday morning

Prosecutors said Arsenault, who has also been ordered to repay the money, billed the church for lavish meals and travel for himself and often a male partner. He was convicted of writing checks from the dead priest’s estate to himself and his brother and billing Catholic Medical Center $250 an hour for consulting work he never did.

Arsenault held senior positions in the New Hampshire diocese from 1999 to 2009. He had been the top lieutenant for then-Bishop John McCormack, handling both a clergy sexual abuse crisis in New Hampshire and orchestrating the church’s new child protection policies.

In 2009, Arsenault became president and CEO of Saint Luke Institute in Maryland. He resigned in 2013 as allegations arose over the misuse of church funds.

The investigation did not involve Saint Luke, a prominent education and counseling center based in Silver Spring, Maryland, with sites in other parts of the United States and in Britain. The center treats priests with a range of mental illnesses and has played a key role in addressing the problem of sexually abusive clergy.

Complete Article HERE!

The Catholic Church’s defiance and obstruction on child sex abuse

By Editorial Board

Pope Francis at the Vatican

IN THREE years at the helm of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has been a source of inspiration for millions of faithful around the world. In one critical respect, however, he has fallen short of his own promise: to come fully to terms with decades of child sex abuse by clergymen and the institutional cover granted to them by bishops and cardinals.

Francis has pledged “the zealous vigilance of the Church to protect children and the promise of accountability for all.” Yet there has been scant accountability, particularly for bishops. Too often, the church’s stance has been defiance and obstruction.

In his trip to the United States in the fall, Francis told victims that “words cannot fully express my sorrow for the abuse you suffered.” Yet his initiative to establish a Vatican tribunal to judge bishops who enabled or ignored pedophile priests has come to naught. Not a single bishop has been called to account by the tribunal, which itself remains more notional than real.

Meanwhile, church officials have fought bills in state legislatures across the United States that would allow thousands of abuse victims to seek justice in court. The legislation would loosen deadlines limiting when survivors can bring lawsuits against abusers or their superiors who turned a blind eye. Many victims, emotionally damaged by the abuse they have suffered, do not speak until years after they were victimized; by then, in many states, it is too late for them to force priests and other abusers to account in court.

Eight states have lifted such deadlines, known as statutes of limitations, for victims who are sexually abused as minors. Seven states have gone further, enacting measures allowing past victims — not just current and future ones — to file lawsuits in a finite period of time, generally a two- or three-year window.

In many more states, however, the bishops and their staffs have successfully killed such bills, arguing that it would be unfair to subject the church to lawsuits in which memories and evidence are degraded by the passage of time. Quietly, they also say the church, which has suffered an estimated $3 billion hit in settlements and other costs related to clergy sex abuse scandals nationwide, can ill afford further financial exposure.

A typical case is Maryland, where bills to extend the statute of limitations until the alleged victim turns 38 have failed even to come to a vote, owing to opposition from House of Delegates Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph F. Vallario Jr. (D-Prince George’s) and the Catholic Church, among others.

In his trip to the United States, Pope Francis praised bishops for what he called their “generous commitment to bring healing to victims” and he expressed sympathy for “how much the pain of recent years has weighed upon you.” Yet by its actions, the church’s “commitment to bring healing” has seemed far from generous. And it seemed perverse to address the bishops’ “pain” when the real suffering has been borne by children.

Complete Article HERE!

House bill means justice for abused children, says advocate

By Patti Mengers

Victim advocate and clerical sex abuse survivor John Salveson inside his office complex in Radnor.
Victim advocate and clerical sex abuse survivor John Salveson inside his office complex in Radnor.

Nearly eight years after John Salveson stood in the state Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg and entreated Pennsylvania legislators to hold public hearings on House Bill 1137 ‒ the Child Victim’s Act of Pennsylvania, a similar bill passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

The 60-year-old Radnor resident, who is president of the Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse, called the passage of House Bill 1947 “a major step forward in our battle to find justice for the victims of child sex abuse in Pennsylvania.”

“House Bill 1947 is not perfect – but it provides an opportunity for justice for child sex abuse victims, who would have the ability, under the law, to bring civil suits against the people who abused them and the institutions which sheltered those abusers,” said Salveson.

The bill, that was approved 180-15 in the House and is now being considered by the state Senate Judiciary Committee, expands the age limit from 30 to 50 for individuals who were abused as children to bring civil lawsuits against their abusers and organizations entrusted with their protection, and would prevent organizations that have acted with gross negligence from claiming immunity. It would be retroactive, allowing past abuse victims to sue.

House Bill 1947 was proposed by state Rep. Ron Marsico,R-105, of Dauphin County but was amended to include past victims by state Rep. Mark Rozzi of Berks County, D-126, who has identified himself as a survivor of Catholic clergy abuse and has been promoting such legislation since he was elected in 2012.

In 2014 Rozzi proposed House Bill 2067 that would have permanently removed the civil and criminal statutes of limitations involving child sexual abuse but it stalled as have similar bills proposed by at least six other Democratic and Republican legislators.

In March state Attorney General Kathleen Kane released a 147-page grand jury report that concluded that hundreds of children were sexually abused over at least four decades by at least 50 priests or religious leaders in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown and that diocesan superiors concealed the abuse.

Salveson feels that grand jury report contributed to the newfound receptivity of House members to the child abuse lawsuit bill along with Rozzi’s “tireless work” and the popularity of “Spotlight,” the Academy Award-winning film about Boston Globe reporters who, in 2002, wrote a series about child sex abuse by nearly 90 priests concealed by the Archdiocese of Boston, that broke open the scandal in Roman Catholic dioceses nationwide.

Of the 11 Delaware County state representatives, only Greg Vitali, D-166, of Haverford opposed House Bill 1947 on Tuesday.

“Current law allows a victim who was assaulted as a child to come forward until he reaches the age of 50 to report the crime. I don’t think this needs to be changed. The proposed legislation would expose the public schools and thus taxpayers to civil judgments against them. Given the problem we are having funding education, this concerns me,” said Vitali.

State Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-161, of Swarthmore, voted to add Rozzi’s amendment to House Bill 1947 last Monday, but was on leave Tuesday when the vote on the bill was taken.

“I wholeheartedly support the bill because it is important to get justice. It can take years for victims to work through the trauma and come forward,” said Krueger-Braneky.

Salveson can identify with the suffering of individuals who were sexually abused as children.

In 1989, he distributed letters on the steps of a church where a Long Island, New York, priest who Salveson said abused him for seven years when he was an adolescent, was serving. Salveson had reported the alleged abuser to his bishop in the Diocese of Rockville Centre in 1980, to no avail.

After Salveson distributed the letters recounting his abuse, the priest, who is now deceased, was finally removed from parish work. The alleged abuser then started a counseling practice. A 2003 Suffolk County grand jury report maintained that the diocese failed in its duty to protect children.

According to two Philadelphia grand jury reports issued in 2005 and 2011, there have been dozens of victims of more than 60 priests since the 1940s in the five-county area constituting the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. More than 40 of the suspected pedophiles had connections to Delaware County. Three priests and a male lay teacher named in the second grand jury investigation were able to be prosecuted because of the state criminal statute of limitations being expanded to age 50 in 2006.

“Ninety percent of people who abuse kids never end up in the courtroom because of the statute of limitations,” noted Salveson in 2008.

Civil lawsuits would expose alleged abusers who were unable to be prosecuted.

Salveson is confident that state Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-12, of Montgomery County, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, will help quickly move the bill to the Senate floor for a vote because “he was among the first in the Commonwealth to advocate for progressive laws related to child sex abuse.”

State Sen. Daylin Leach, D-17, of Upper Merion, who represents Haverford and Radnor townships as well as parts of Montgomery County, is minority chair of the judiciary committee. Zach Hoover, Leach’s chief of staff and minority counsel for the judiciary committee, said, broadly speaking, Leach supports House Bill 1947.

“From a policy standpoint, there’s nothing he thinks should be amended, but we are looking into the constitutionality of the portion of the bill that makes the policy retroactive,” said Hoover on Friday.

Salveson, who was formerly president of the Philadelphia chapter of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests or SNAP, founded the Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse, an organization to advocate for reform of Pennsylvania legislation affecting sexually abused children, in 2006.

“FACSA will continue to press for the passage of this and other laws to protect children,” said Salveson. “The time is long overdue for Pennsylvania to support those who have been abused, rather than their abusers.”

Complete Article HERE!