Archive for March, 2019
March 26, 2019
A prominent cardinal in Düsseldorf has reportedly been placed on leave due to an allegation that he sexually assaulted an adult clergyman in 2012.
The same cardinal was reportedly reinstated by the church after undergoing ‘therapy’ following similar allegations in the 1990s.
Cardinal Ulrich Hennes, who serves as the city dean for Düsseldorf, has been suspended from his role due to sexual assault allegations.
Archbishop of Cologne Rainer Maria Woelki placed the cardinal on compulsory leave due to the pending allegations, with RP Online reporting that the man underwent a church-administered ‘therapy’ program in relation to the sexual molestation of a teenager in the 1990s.
The report casts doubt on the effectiveness of the church’s ability to self regulate and prosecute allegations against clergymen, particularly as a report completed at the end of the therapy process found that the Cardinal could return to work “without conditions”.
A spokesman for the church said that Hennes was “committed to therapy, which was then completed” in the 1990s, with the church deciding to reinstate him to his position.
Hennes denied the allegations to RP Online, while also confirming that he was not a flight risk. “I am innocent”, he said. “I have no reason to flee (Düsseldorf)”.
Archbishop Woelki said that Hennes was entitled to the presumption of innocence, but sought to reaffirm the church’s commitment to tackle sexual misconduct in its ranks.
“We do not tolerate any form of sexual assault and consistently follow the relevant instructions and suspected cases,” says Cardinal Woelki.
As reported by The Local in March, the Catholic Church in Germany promised to urgently confront sexual abuse scandals amid allegations that victims had been “stonewalled”.
The guidelines of the German Bishops Conference require that members of the clergy be suspended for the duration of the process after allegations have been made.
Hennes was made city dean of Düsseldorf in 2016, a role which requires him to act as a representative of the bishop in the city.
March 26, 2019
A former Jehovah’s Witness is using stolen documents to expose allegations that the religion has kept hidden for decades.
In March 1997, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the nonprofit organization that oversees the Jehovah’s Witnesses, sent a letter to each of its 10,883 U.S. congregations, and to many more congregations worldwide. The organization was concerned about the legal risk posed by possible child molesters within its ranks. The letter laid out instructions on how to deal with a known predator: Write a detailed report answering 12 questions—Was this a onetime occurrence, or did the accused have a history of child molestation? How is the accused viewed within the community? Does anyone else know about the abuse?—and mail it to Watchtower’s headquarters in a special blue envelope. Keep a copy of the report in your congregation’s confidential file, the instructions continued, and do not share it with anyone.
Thus did the Jehovah’s Witnesses build what might be the world’s largest database of undocumented child molesters: at least two decades’ worth of names and addresses—likely numbering in the tens of thousands—and detailed acts of alleged abuse, most of which have never been shared with law enforcement, all scanned and searchable in a Microsoft SharePoint file. In recent decades, much of the world’s attention to allegations of abuse has focused on the Catholic Church and other religious groups. Less notice has been paid to the abuse among the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Christian sect with more than 8.5 million members. Yet all this time, Watchtower has refused to comply with multiple court orders to release the information contained in its database and has paid millions of dollars over the years to keep it secret, even from the survivors whose stories are contained within.
That effort has been remarkably successful—until recently.
A white Priority Mail box filled with manila envelopes sits on the floor of Mark O’Donnell’s wood-paneled home office, on the outskirts of Baltimore, Maryland. Mark, 51, is the owner of an exercise-equipment repair business and a longtime Jehovah’s Witness who quietly left the religion in late 2013. Soon after, he became known to ex–Jehovah’s Witnesses as John Redwood, an activist and a blogger who reports on the various controversies, including cases of child abuse, surrounding Watchtower. (Recently, he has begun using his own name.)
When I first met Mark, in May of last year, he appeared at the front door of his modest home in the same outfit he nearly always wears: khaki cargo shorts, a short-sleeved shirt, white sneakers, and sweat socks pulled up over his calves. He invited me into his densely furnished office, where a fan barely dispelled the wafting smell of cat food. He pulled an envelope from the Priority Mail box and passed me its contents, a mixture of typed and handwritten letters discussing various sins allegedly committed by members of a Jehovah’s Witness congregation in Massachusetts. All the letters in the box had been stolen by an anonymous source inside the religion and shared with Mark. The sins described in the letters ranged from the mundane—smoking pot, marital infidelity, drunkenness—to the horrifying. Slowly, over the past couple of years, Mark has been leaking the most damning contents of the box, much of which is still secret.
Mark’s eyebrows are permanently arched, and when he makes an important point, he peers out above his rimless glasses, eyes widened, which lends him a conspiratorial air.
“Start with these,” he said.
Among the papers Mark showed me that day was a series of letters about a man from Springfield, Massachusetts, who had been disfellowshipped—a form of excommunication—three times. When the man was once again reinstated, in 2008, someone working in a division of Watchtower wrote to his congregation, noting that in 1989 he was said to have “allowed his 11-year-old stepdaughter to touch his penis … on at least two occasions.”
I was struck by the oddness of the language. It insinuated that the man had agreed to, rather than initiated, the sexual contact with his stepdaughter.
After I left Mark’s house, I tracked down the stepdaughter, now 40. In fact, she told me, she had been only 8 when her stepfather had molested her. “He was the adult and I was the kid, so I thought I didn’t have any choice,” she said. She was terrified, she told me. “It took me two years to go to my mom about it.”
Her mother immediately went to the congregation’s elders, who later called the girl and her stepfather in to pray with them. She remembers it as a humiliating experience.
Her stepfather was eventually disfellowshipped for instances that involved “fornication,” “drunkenness,” and “lying,” according to the letters. But according to the stepdaughter, his alleged molestation of her resulted only in his being “privately reproved,” a closed-door reprimand that is usually accompanied by a temporary loss of privileges, such as not being allowed to offer comments during Bible study or lead a prayer. The letters make no reference to police being notified; the stepdaughter said her mother was encouraged to keep the matter private, and no attempt was made to keep the stepfather away from other children. (Calls to the congregation’s Kingdom Hall—the Witness version of a church—for comment went unanswered.)
By the time the letters were written, the man was attending a different congregation and had married another woman with children; he is still part of that family today. Near the end of the final letter in Mark’s possession is a question: “Is there any responsibility on the part of either body of elders … to inform his current wife of his past history of child molestation?”
Mark O’Donnell’s childhood was an isolated one. His parents, Jerry and Susan, had started attending Jehovah’s Witness meetings in the mid-1960s. Another couple from Baltimore had told them of Watchtower’s prediction that the world would end in 1975, bringing death to all non-Witnesses and transforming Earth into a paradise for the faithful. In 1968, just after Mark was born, Jerry and Susan were group-baptized in a swimming pool in Washington, D.C. Mark was an only child, and he inherited his father’s peculiar love of record-keeping. Mark would show up to meetings at the Kingdom Hall with a briefcase full of religious texts.
As in any religion, there’s some variation among Jehovah’s Witnesses in how strictly they interpret the teachings that govern their faith; Mark’s upbringing seems to have been especially stringent. As a child, he attended at least five meetings a week, plus several hours of private Bible study. On Saturday mornings, he joined his parents in “field service,” knocking on doors in search of converts. He was taught that most people outside the organization were corrupted by Satan and, given the chance, would try to steal from him, drug him, or rape him. Mainstream books and magazines were considered the work of Satan. If he broke any of the religion’s main rules, he could be disfellowshipped, meaning even his own family would have to shun him.
Throughout Mark’s childhood, he heard elders cite Proverbs 13:24: “Whoever holds back his rod hates his son.” Mark’s parents took the lesson to heart and beat him frequently. The religion forbids celebrating birthdays, voting, serving in the military, and accepting blood transfusions, even in life-and-death situations. Witnesses were encouraged to devote themselves to bringing more converts into the religion before the end of the world arrived. “Reports are heard of brothers selling their homes and property” to spend their last days proselytizing, said a Watchtower publication in 1974. “Certainly this is a fine way to spend the short time remaining before the wicked world’s end.” Some Witnesses stopped going to the doctor, quit their jobs, or ran up debt.
But piety, Mark noticed, did not always translate to morality. When he was 12, Mark became suspicious of a local Witness named Louis Ongsingco, a flight attendant who would bring home Toblerone bars for the local Witness kids and invite them to his apartment to act out religious plays. Mark noticed Ongsingco touching young girls in a way that made him uncomfortable. He told an elder about his concerns. But rather than take action against Ongsingco, the elder told him what Mark had said. Days later, Ongsingco pulled Mark aside and scolded him.
Mark’s instincts seem to have been right. In 2001, one of Mark’s childhood friends, Erin Michelle Shifflett, along with four other women, sued Ongsingco for sexual assault. The cases were settled out of court for an undisclosed sum. Ongsingco died in 2016.
To Mark, the lesson was that for all the emphasis the elders placed on moral purity, there was no greater sin than speaking out against other Witnesses.
Irish bishop raped his own niece when she was just five and faced another two accusations of child sexual abuse before his death
March 24, 2019
- One of the women was paid out under the Residential Institutions Redress Board
- Additionally, a second settlement was confirmed by the Limerick Diocese
- His niece, Patricia Donovan, now 56, said: ‘It was rape, everything you imagine
Deceased Bishop Eamonn Casey faced at least three allegations of child sexual abuse before he died – with two high court cases being settled.
One of the women who have accused him was his niece, while another received a settlement under the controversial Residential Institutions Redress Board.
Documents obtained by the Irish Mail on Sunday confirmed the Redress settlement, and a second settlement was confirmed by the Limerick Diocese when the MoS directly asked them.
Patricia Donovan, the niece of the late Bishop Eamonn Casey has claimed she was raped and sexually abused by him from the age of five for more than a decade.
Speaking for the first time, his niece Patricia Donovan, now 56, said: ‘It was rape, everything you imagine. It was the worst kind of abuse, it was horrific.
‘I stopped being able long ago to find any words in the English language to describe what happened to me. It was one horrific thing after another.’
The Irish Mail on Sunday can also reveal that two other complaints of child sexual abuse related to incidents in the 1950s and 1960s.
Ms Donovan, who lives in England, brought her allegations to police in the UK in November 2005, and later to gardai.
Limerick detectives travelled to the UK to take a statement from her in January 2006, but by August of the same year, the Director of Public Prosecutions directed that no charges be brought on 13 sample allegations.
But in the course of seeking documentation relating to her case, Ms Donovan received case notes that confirm that Bishop Casey made a Redress board settlement with a woman in 2005.
March 24, 2019
Sex convict rabbi Eliezer Berland promises he can revive people who were officially declared brain dead, if family members pony up some NIS 20,000 ($5,400), according to a television report on Thursday that exposed the working of the miracles-for-cash services offered by the shadowy leader of the Shuvu Bonim community.
Berland has long been known to offer “pidyonim,” or kabbalistic benedictions, to the ill, whereby they receive a blessing after donating money. In late-night visits, and surrounded by dozens of followers, Berland frequently shows up at Israeli hospitals across the country, unattended by staff, to bless the sick, according to footage uploaded by his followers.
Israeli journalists from Channel 12 news, seeking to unearth how it works and after encountering victims of Berland’s scheme, invented the case of a 35-year-old woman, “Yael,” who was declared brain dead.
They contacted Berland’s aide Natan, who was initially circumspect, saying he would have to check as it was a case of brain death. “If it wasn’t brain death, I would promise you that he would revive her,” he tells them, tacitly acknowledging the irreversible loss of all cognitive functioning.
But getting back to them after consulting with Berland, Natan says his mentor is confident he can do it. It would cost NIS 20,000, he says, vowing that the woman will be brought back to life. “At least once a week, the rabbi revives the dead in all sorts of ways in the hospital,” the Berland aide reassures them.
After they balk at the price, Natan puts Berland on the line.
“Bring NIS 20,000 within an hour, at 1 a.m. I’ll be at Rambam [medical center in Haifa],” the rabbi tells them.
“Wait, but Rabbi Berland, the doctors said she’s brain dead,” interjects Channel 12 reporter Yoav Even.
“The rabbi knows this,” replies Natan the aide.
“Yes, I can revive her. I’ve already revived people who were brain dead, who were totally paralyzed, people with cancer… against which they didn’t stand a chance,” Berland says, adding that he performed “total miracles, total miracles.”
“If you bring me NIS 20,000, she’ll wake up. There will be a miracle. Her brain will start to work, you’ll see her brain starting to work,” said Berland.
Natan later updated the journalists that Berland would offer the blessing remotely after the money was transferred, and wouldn’t show up at the hospital.
In a statement to the TV station, associates of Berland insisted that his religious services do not cost money.
“There is a matter of pledging money to charity during a time of suffering. The rabbi himself blesses and prays and doesn’t deal with money at all. If the money comes, it’s immediately distributed to the needy,” a statement from his associates said.
“We are witness to hundreds and thousands of stories of people who were saved by the blessings of the rabbi, which are supernatural,” the statement added.
Activists who have spoken to The Times of Israel in the past have cited several cases of followers who, they say, have sold their houses or have been plunged into debt for these benedictions, in what they argue is tantamount to extortion by a cult-like leader with undue influence over his followers.
The donations — provided by ostensibly consenting adults for a religious service — are not illegal under Israeli law.
In a recording recently obtained by The Times of Israel, which is punctuated by derisive laughter by his followers, Berland boasted of exploiting a woman who donated tens of thousands of dollars.
Long considered a cult-like leader to thousands of his followers, Berland fled Israel in 2013 amid allegations that he had sexually assaulted several female followers. After evading arrest for three years and slipping through various countries, Berland, 81, was sentenced to 18 months in prison in November 2016 on two counts of indecent acts and one case of assault, as part of a plea deal that included seven months of time served. He was freed just five months later, in part due to ill health.
He can raise the dead but can’t cure his own health problems. Hmmm.
Since then, he has resumed his activities as the leader of the Shuvu Bonim community, an offshoot of the Bratslav Hasidic sect that has been disavowed by the broader Bratslav dynasty.
March 22, 2019
AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — A Roman Catholic priest in Austin has been arrested on a misdemeanor assault charge after he was accused of groping a woman in home hospice care while giving her last rites.
Austin Police arrested Rev. Gerold Langsch and charged him with assault by contact stemming from the October 5, 2018 encounter.
The 75-year-old priest is free on $15,000 bond. If convicted, he could be sentenced to a year in jail and fined up to $4,000.
Police contend in the arrest affidavit that the woman was in hospice care for complications from diabetes when Lansch went to her home to administer the sacrament of anointing the sick, a sacrament of absolution.
The woman, who is still alive, reported that Langsch first anointed her chest with holy water, then began to apply lotion, massaging a breast, pinching a nipple and asking “Does that feel good?” He then tried to slip his hand inside her diaper but was unable to.
The woman later told police the priest’s actions left her in shock, uncomfortable, confused and feeling like, she told police, a “nasty, dirty piece of meat.”
In a statement Wednesday, the Catholic Diocese of Austin said Langsch had been pastor of St. Paul Catholic Church in Austin until last month, when the diocese “received an unrelated report that he had failed to maintain proper boundaries with an adult.”
The statement said that report did not involve any physical contact. Nevertheless, the diocese removed Langsch from his post and deemed him no longer able to serve as a priest in the diocese.
The diocese said it will cooperate fully with police and asks anyone with information about the priest’s actions to notify police.
March 19, 2019
A former youth pastor at an Estero church is back behind bars after being caught in a hotel with the same girl he was previously arrested for having inappropriate contact with.
According to law enforcement, Jerred Peacock was caught in a hotel last year with the same girl he is accused of sexually assaulting again.
Peacock had a “no contact” order with the girl, but he has continued to contact her after the arrest last October.
He is being held without bond on a new sex assault charge.
New Mexico priest is charged with raping an 8-year-old girl until she vomited and then making her clean it up
March 18, 2019
- Sabine Griego, 81, faces rape charges from assaults which allegedly took place nearly 30 years ago
- Authorities allege Griego assaulted an 8-year-old girl who was an altar server at a New Mexico Catholic school
- Police say Griego raped the girl on a number of occasions, which included vicious beatings that resulted in a broken nose
- Griego has been implicated in at least eight cases that were closed by authorities
- Police say they have evidence the Archdiocese of Santa Fe knew about the alleged rapes for at least 15 years
- Griego is believed to have raped more than 30 children over the course of decades
A former priest raped an 8-year-old girl nearly 30 years ago to the point where she vomited – only to then force her to clean up the mess, it has been alleged.
Sabine Griego, 81, was arrested on Tuesday at his New Mexico home for the alleged assault and other rapes involving the girl.
Griego, a resident of Las Vegas, New Mexico, has been charged with one count of sexual penetration of a minor and coercion resulting in great bodily harm and mental anguish.
The charges are just the latest allegations against Griego, who has also been accused of sexually assaulting more than 30 children over decades while in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican.
Between 1993 and 1995, Griego was implicated in eight closed cases. He was put on leave from the church in 1993, but it wasn’t until 2005 that he was formally dismissed from clerical duties.
Griego is currently being held without bond at the San Miguel County Detention Center in Las Vegas.
Authorities allege that the archdiocese knew of the latest rape allegations made by the girl, ‘Jane Doe A’, for at least 15 years.
The arrest want cites a 2004 letter, which was marked ‘confidential,’ and signed by then-Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan.
The letter provides ‘direct evidence’ that the rape occurred and that the archdiocese discovered it after conducting its own investigation.
The first alleged rape took place after Griego took the girl to the church rectory. He told her that they would ‘play a special game,’ authorities allege.
It was during the assault that the girl vomited and was then forced to clean up the mess, authorities allege.
The girl told investigators that Griego raped her numerous times and that on a few occasions he made her drink wine.
Griego is also alleged to have used a wooden spoon to assault and beat her.
Griego is alleged to have targeted the girl when she was just in second grade at Queen of Heaven Catholic School.
She told investigators that Griego would spend time with her after school and over lunch.
He also offered her ‘weird black Halloween candy,’ police allege.
On one occasion, Griego began to allegedly rape her, knocking her to the floor and covering her mouth.
Griego has been implicated in at least eight cases that have been closed. He is believed to have raped dozens of children
She then bit his hand, prompting Griego to slap her. He then continued with the rape.
A year later, during another rape, Griego got angry with the girl and slammed her face into a table, resulting in a broken nose, police allege.
March 16, 2019
John G. Allen, from the Pennsylvania abusive pedophile priests list
A defrocked York County priest was arrested Thursday morning on charges that he molested two altar boys between 1997 and 2002.
John G. Allen, who served in several parishes throughout Lebanon, Gettysburg, Selinsgrove, New Cumberland, Steelton, Lancaster and Harrisburg, is facing four counts of indecent assault and two counts of corruption of minors, according to the Dauphin County District Attorney’s Office.
Allen, a 75-year-old York County resident, abused the victims while they served as altar boys at St. Margaret Mary’s Alacoque Church in Harrisburg, the criminal complaint said.
One victim said he was fondled from ages 10 to 13. The other victim said he was assaulted from ages 12 to 14, according to the district attorney’s office.
Allen in August was among 301 abusive priests named in a Pennsylvania grand jury report and 71 named by the Diocese of Harrisburg.
A former altar boy filed a lawsuit in August against the Diocese of Harrisburg, claiming former Bishop William Keeler failed to protect him from an abusive priest.
Diocese concerns about priest date back to 1970
The Harrisburg diocese was concerned about Father John Allen’s sexual behavior in January 1970, but did not intervene for two decades.
In those 20 years, Allen sexually abused multiple young boys, according to the grand jury report, and, in 1992, he was arrested in Lancaster for soliciting an undercover officer for sex.
The diocese sent him for a mental health evaluation in 1991. Two years later, Bishop Nicholas Dattilo was told Allen went to a Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous meeting, where the priest “gave the impression to members that he was a pedophile and had an obsession with young boys,” according to diocese records shared in the grand jury report.
Dattilo didn’t remove him from practice. Instead, Allen took a leave of absence from St. Joseph in Lancaster in November 1992 and was reinstated eight months later at St. Theresa in New Cumberland, where he served from 1993 to 1995.
After a man came forward in April 2002 and reported he was abused by Allen for four years, from age 14 to 18, the Harrisburg diocese removed him as a priest.
Two months later, the diocese received a call to verify his employment for a new job. The caller didn’t want any additional information or a reference.
And Father M. McFadden said, “I did not volunteer any additional information,” according to the Pennsylvania grand jury report.
Allen was officially dismissed from the Catholic church by Pope Benedict XVI on Feb. 17, 2006.
March 13, 2019
A former New Jersey priest who had been “credibly accused” of sexually abusing minors was found dead in his Nevada home, and police are treating it as a homicide.
The body of John Capparelli was found Saturday morning by police conducting a welfare check at his home in Henderson, about 15 miles south of Las Vegas.
The Clark County Coroner’s Office said Capparelli, 70, died from a single gunshot wound to the neck. His body was found in the kitchen, a spokesperson said.
Police said they did not have a suspect at this time.
Capparelli’s name appeared on a list in February with 187 other clergy the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark said had been “credibly accused” of abusing minors.
He was never convicted of a crime, but he was laicized and permanently removed from ministry, according to the archdiocese.
He denied the allegations to NJ.com in an interview in 2011, saying: “Everything is not true.”
Capparelli moved to Nevada in 2016, the outlet reports.
The archdiocese said he worked at a number of churches and schools in New Jersey, including Our Lady of Fatima Church in North Bergen; Oratory Prep School in Summit; Holy Trinity in Westfield; and The Church of Saint Theresa in Kenilworth. He was also a temporary chaplain at Valley Hospital in Ridgewood.
March 13, 2019
Pell, who served as the Vatican treasurer and was once part of Pope Francis’ inner circle, is the highest-ranking member of the Roman Catholic Church to be convicted of child sexual assault.
He was convicted of five counts at a hearing in December, but the media were prohibited from reporting about the details of the case due to a broad gag order meant to protect the integrity of the trial. He faced a total of 10 years in prison for each of those charges.
Pell, 77, will be eligible for parole in three years and six months and, if released, will be required to register as a sex offender for life. Judge Peter Kidd cited the cardinal’s advanced age and various health issues in considering his sentence.
“Each year you spend in custody will represent a substantial portion of your remaining life expectancy,” Kidd said Wednesday.
The sentenced stems from two incidents in the 1990s when Pell was the newly appointed Archbishop of Melbourne. He was accused of sexually assaulting two 13-year-old altar boys shortly after Sunday Mass, including an instance when Pell forced one of the boys to perform oral sex on him. During a separate incident, Pell was accused of grabbing a boy’s genitals.
A unanimous jury found him guilty of five counts of sexual abuse. Pell has maintained his innocence throughout the trial, and his lawyers have said they would appeal the conviction.
During the sentencing, Kidd said that, in his view, Pell’s “conduct was permeated by staggering arrogance” and called the actions “grave” and brazen.
“The argument of your counsel that this offending was committed by you, George Pell the man, and not by you, George Pell the archbishop, must be roundly rejected,” Kidd noted. “I do so without hesitation.”
One of the men who was abused by Pell released a statement through his lawyer after the verdict was handed down, saying the judge was “meticulous” in his ruling. But, he noted, it was “hard … for the time being, to take comfort in this outcome.”
“I appreciate that the Court has acknowledged what was inflicted upon me as a child,” the unnamed victim’s said through his attorney, Vivian Waller. “However, there is no rest for me. Everything is overshadowed by the forthcoming appeal.”
He added: “Being a witness in a criminal case has not been easy. I’m doing my best to hold myself and my family together.”
March 10, 2019
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The special police team has arrested former Tholicode Imam Shafeeq Moulavi, who has been accused of sexually abusing a 15-year-old girl. The accused and his aide Fazil, a native of Perumbavoor, were arrested from a lodge in Madurai, putting an end to almost three weeks of man hunt. District Crime Branch DySP D Asokan said Fazil was the driver of the 35-year-old accused and had taken him to several places to avoid the police net. Before being holed up in Madurai, the accused took shelter in more than 10 places.
“After leaving the state, he went into hiding in several places in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. He changed his appearance to give the police a slip,” Asokan said. The police said Noushad, one of the relatives of the former Imam, was into plywood business and hence he knew several places in TN and AP. “Noushad was the one who dissuaded the accused from surrendering before the police. He suggested the accused the places to go into hiding,” the officer said.
The police ascertained the accused did not go to Bengaluru and statements to that effect were given to derail the probe. After grilling Noushad and another person, Sudheer, who was also arrested for his connection in this case, the police came to know the accused was in Madurai. A seven-member team led by Asokan went to Madurai and arrested the accused, his driver and also seized their car.
March 9, 2019
Riga (AFP) – A Latvian Catholic priest and two other people have been charged with human trafficking and sexual abuse of a male teenager with learning difficulties, local media reported Friday, citing justice authorities.
Laura Majevska, a spokeswoman for Latvia’s prosecutor general confirmed the charges against three suspects, although she refused to reveal their identities.
Citing unnamed sources, the Baltic News Service named one of the accused as Pavels Zeila (photo not available), a 73-year-old priest, who had served in a diocese in eastern Latvia.
“The abuser did horrible things to me while talking to me in a sweet voice: ‘What a cute boy!’,” the alleged victim told Latvian public broadcaster LTV in an interview aired before the indictment.
“Only later I was told he is a priest,” the vulnerable young man said, in the broadcast to a national audience.
Police arrested Zeila on suspicion of abuse in September, but he has since been released on bail.
Describing the details of the allegations at the time of the arrest, Armands Lubarts, chief of a police task force on human trafficking and pimping, told media that “one of the suspects ‘delivered’ the defenceless victim for a fee.
“The church representative, who was the end buyer, paid the fee and then committed violent sexual crimes against the victim,” Lubarts added.
Neither Zeila nor his lawyers have commented on the charges, which come as the Catholic Church has vowed to fight child abuse within its ranks.