Accused priests served in areaThe headlines make international news, but part of the story in the ongoing Catholic clergy sexual abuse saga has ties here in our own region.
By: By J. Shane Mercer, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
FARGO — The headlines make international news, but part of the story in the ongoing Catholic clergy sexual abuse saga has ties here in our own region.
Both India native Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul, who is charged with sexually assaulting a teen, and convicted Irish abuser Brendan Smyth served in local dioceses.
While those headlines hit home, several other priests accused of sexual abuse while serving in the area, including Jeyapaul, have yet to face charges.
And the Fargo Diocese says “no incidents of abuse are acceptable” and continues a policy of reporting abuse allegations.
Smyth (also known as John Smythe), a key figure in the Irish clergy sex abuse scandal, served as priest in the Fargo Diocese from 1979 to 1983, the Grand Forks Herald reported. Smyth died in 1997 in prison while serving a 12-year sentence for 74 instances of sexual abuse, according to Newsweek.
The Dublin native was accused of sexual abuse while serving the St. Alphonsus parish in Langdon. Several individuals came forward after the Fargo Diocese informed parishes about the charges Smythe faced in Northern Ireland.
The Associated Press reported this week that Jeyapaul, a priest charged with sexual assault while he served in the Crookston Diocese in Minnesota, is still an active priest in India.
Jeyapaul came to Minnesota to serve in 2004. The AP reported that after Jeyapaul left for India to visit his ailing mother in 2005, charges were filed for an incident in which Jeyapaul is alleged to have groped a 14-year-old girl and forced her to perform oral sex on him.
Victor Balke, a past Crookston Diocese bishop, repeatedly urged church officials to take up Jeyapaul’s case, the BishopAccountability.org Web site states.
Jeyapaul denies both allegations and said he would not fight extradition from India.
The Associated Press has reported that a Minnesota prosecutor directly appealed to Pope Benedict XVI for help Tuesday in an effort to bring Jeyapaul back to the United States to face sexual assault charges.
Abraham Anthony, who served as a visiting pastor at St. James Catholic Church in Jamestown, for eight months, was charged with gross sexual imposition, sexual assault and disorderly conduct in 2000.
At the time the charges were filed, a church official told The Forum that when they learned about allegations against Anthony, a native of India, they refused to allow him to work for the diocese. The diocese told police and social services about allegations against Anthony, a Jamestown Sun article stated.
In a recent interview, Stutsman County State’s Attorney Fritz Fremgen said the last he knew, Anthony was still in India. Officials have not tried to extradite Anthony to the U.S. One factor was cost.
Fremgen said the victims were consulted and “are fine” with the decision not to seek extradition.
A 2006 Dallas Morning News Web story states that Anthony serves in the Vellore Diocese in southern India. It is unclear if he is working there at this time. An e-mail to the Diocese of Vellore asking for assistance contacting Anthony was not answered.
Anthony has denied the abuse charges.
Cass County State’s Attorney Birch Burdick said his office has been working with the U.S. Justice Department to have Fernando Sayasaya extradited to the U.S. from his homeland in the Philippines.
Sayasaya served as an associate pastor at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fargo and at Blessed Sacrament in West Fargo. He was charged with two felony counts of gross sexual imposition in 2002 for offences alleged to have occurred several years earlier. He admitted to police that he abused three boys from the two churches, a 2002 Forum article stated.
Sayasaya was removed from his priest duties in the Fargo Diocese in August 1998, said Fargo Diocese Vicar General Monsignor Joseph Goering.
Around Christmas 1998, James Sullivan, then-bishop of the Fargo Diocese, allowed Sayasaya to go to the Philippines for vacation, the Dallas Morning News reported. He never returned.
West Fargo Police Detective Sgt. Greg Warren said the FBI has expressed renewed interest in the case and met with the West Fargo Police Department last week.
On “several occasions,” Fargo Bishop Samuel Aquila “requested that Mr. Sayasaya return” to face prosecution, but Sayasaya declined, Goering said.
Aquila “requested dismissal from the clerical state for Sayasaya,” Goering said. That request was granted.
Raimond Rose taught at Fargo Shanley High, a Catholic school, from 1976 to 1980, and is accused of sexually assaulting male students at Shanley in four civil lawsuits in North Dakota, though he’s never been convicted of a crime.
In a statement, Fargo Diocese spokeswoman Tanya Watterud, recently said the Diocese won’t address inquiries related to pending litigation “out of respect for the integrity of the legal process.”
Procedure and policy
While some think the Catholic Church is protecting abusers, Goering believes that is a misperception.
“We’re committed to providing a safe place for minors” and to preventing those who have abused minors from having a place of ministry, he said.
Goering said church officials “cooperate fully” with law enforcement officials.
Diocese policy calls for church workers who learn of abuse to file a report with the state Department of Human Services, Goering said. If the alleged act is committed by a church worker, it is also to be reported to Goering’s office.
This policy does not apply to revelations made in confession, an exception that is recognized by the law and is akin to client-attorney privilege, he said.
Goering pointed to several efforts in place to create a safe environment, including background checks, safe-environment training for laity and training for church workers. The diocese is also audited for compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and is in compliance, he said.
Monsignor David Baumgartner, vicar general for the Crookston Diocese, declined to speak about clergy sexual abuse because of ongoing litigation. He did not specify what litigation, referring questions to the diocese’s attorney.
The Crookston Diocese Web site details a number of offenses that would bar someone from serving where they might have unsupervised contact with minors. Those offenses include numerous sexual crimes such as solicitation of children to engage in sexual conduct and first to fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct.
The site also states that clergy, employees and volunteers who have contact with children will be “Safe-Environment Certified.”
J. Shane Mercer is a reporter
at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by
Forum Communications Co.