Decision on confessed sex offender made after Vatican consultations, Ootacamund prelate says
ucanews.com reporter, Kochi, India
February 11, 2016
Addressing U.S. cardinals in 2002, Pope John Paul II issues a stern warning against priests who would harm young people. An Indian bishop has lifted the suspension of a priest convicted of sexually abusing a 16-year-old girl in the United States. (Photo by AFP)
A Catholic bishop in southern India has lifted the suspension of a priest convicted last year of sexually abusing a 16-year-old girl in the United States.
The 2010 suspension order imposed on Father Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul, 61, was lifted on Jan. 16 after consultations with the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Bishop Arulappan Amalraj of Ootacamund told ucanews.com Feb. 9.
“It was not a personal decision, but was done after extensive consultation and under the guidance of competent authorities,” Bishop Amalraj said.
Father Jeyapaul, posted to Crookston Diocese in Minnesota for parish work in 2004, returned home within a year following allegations of sexual abuse.
Interpol arrested him in 2012 to face charges in the U.S. of sexually abusing two girls while serving Crookston Diocese.
The priest pleaded guilty in one of the cases in June 2015 and was sentenced to a year in jail.
Father Jeyapaul took a 16-year-old girl to his rectory and “kissed her repeatedly, pulling her on top of him and at one point touched her beneath her clothing,” bishop-accountability.org, an abuse victims’ group website said citing a letter supposedly written to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2005 by Crookston Bishop Victor Hermann Balke.
The disgraced priest returned to India soon after having been freed for time served while awaiting trial, according to U.S. media.
Father Jayapaul did not face trial in the second case after the alleged victim dropped the charges.
Ooty diocesan public relation officer Father Sebastian Selvanathan said consultations with the Vatican on lifting the suspension order began soon after Father Jayapaul was freed last year.
“So far he has not been given any ministry in the diocese. We will consider that in May when the usual transfers and new assignment are decided,” said Father Selvanathan.
He dismissed suggestion made by Internet groups that the bishop’s decision was “inspired by the Year of Mercy” that began in November at the direction of the Pope Francis.
Efforts by ucanews.com to contact Father Jayapaul for comment were not successful.
NEW DELHI — The Roman Catholic church in southern India has lifted the suspension of a priest convicted last year of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in the United States more than a decade ago, a spokesman said Saturday.
The suspension of the Rev. Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul was lifted last month after the bishop of the Ootacamund Diocese in India’s Tamil Nadu state consulted with church authorities at the Vatican, said the Rev. Sebastian Selvanathan, a spokesman for the diocese.
Bishop Arulappan Amalraj of Ootacamund had referred Jeyapaul’s case to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the suspension was lifted on the church body’s advice, Selvanathan said.
“After Jeyapaul’s release from the United States and his return to India, this matter was referred to Rome, and according to the guidelines of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the suspension against Jeyapaul was removed,” Selvanathan said.
The Vatican office of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declined immediate comment.
Jeyapaul was sent to Minnesota in 2004 and served at the Blessed Sacrament Church in Greenbush, near the Canadian border.
He was suspended in 2010 after being charged with sexually assaulting two girls who were both 14 at the time of the alleged abuse.
Jeyapaul fled the United States, but was arrested in India by Interpol in 2012 and extradited to the U.S. Jeyapaul pleaded guilty to molesting one of the teenagers who hasn’t been identified publicly. The charges involving sexual abuse of the second teenager, Megan Peterson, were dropped as part of a plea deal.
Peterson accused Jeyapaul of raping her in his office in a statement posted under her name on the website of The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, which has advocated for victims’ rights.
Jeyapaul, now 61, was sentenced to a year in jail, but was freed on account of time served while awaiting trial.
Jeyapaul returned to India five months ago, and the process to lift the suspension was started soon after, Selvanathan said.
Bishop Amalraj lifted the suspension in mid-January, but Jeyapaul has not yet been assigned any responsibilities, Selvanathan said. “That will be decided in May, when decisions are taken by the diocese on changes and assignments,” he said.
Jeyapaul could not be contacted, with Selvanathan saying the church did not know his whereabouts.
The two Minnesota women both sued the Diocese of Crookston, Minnesota, and settled out of court.
Attorney Jeff Anderson of St. Paul, Minnesota, who represented the women, criticized church authorities for lifting Jeyapaul’s suspension.
“The Vatican must be held accountable…. This is on them. This is on the pope,” Anderson said.
While Peterson has spoken publicly about her case before in hopes that it would help others, Anderson said she was too upset to comment Saturday.
“They’re both quite upset, disturbed and feel deeply betrayed that they would have the audacity to consider even putting him back in ministry,” Anderson said. “To use Megan’s words, ‘They’ll never get it and I’m feeling re-victimized.'”
Anderson, who has represented hundreds of victims of sexual abuse by clergy, said they’re exploring further legal action over the decision to lift Jeyapaul’s suspension and will announce details soon.
“We’re not going to let this go. We’re not going to stand silent,” Anderson said.