US Diocese settles sex abuse case against priest

Last Updated: Thursday, September 8, 2011 - 12:42

Chicago: A Roman Catholic Diocese in the US
where an Indian priest is alleged to have sexually assaulted
an American girl several times when she was a teenager has
agreed to pay USD 750,000 to settle a lawsuit against him.

Father Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul, who now serves as
Secretary of Education Commission in the Diocese of Ootacamund
(Tamil Nadu) had been charged with sexually assaulting two
girls while he was posted at the Crookston Diocese in Northern
Minnesota in 2004.

The victim, Megan Peterson, 20, said Jeyapaul sexually
abused her when she went to speak to him about becoming a nun.

Jeyapaul ministered three parishes in Crookston where he
was accused of misappropriating church funds and sexual abuse.

Charges were filed by the girl after the Church refused
to answer her calls. Jeyapaul returned to India before the
charges came to light.

"Right now Jeyapaul is a fugitive from justice in the
United States. The Vatican and Bishop of Ootacamund in India
are admitting him to remain in the ministry in India and are
putting their reputation over the well being and safety of
children of whom we are concerned right now," the woman`s
attorney Jeff Anderson told a news agency over phone.

The plaintiff, Megan Peterson, and the Diocese of
Crookston agreed to terms of settlement on July 13, 2011,
prior to a trial.

A payment of USD 750,000 was agreed upon, an amount
covered by Diocese`s insurance.

Peterson says she was 14 and aspiring to become a nun
when she was raped several times by Jeyapaul.

Jeyapaul has said he is innocent and denied ever knowing
the two girls. The other girl was 16-years-old at the time of
alleged abuse.

The terms of the agreement include a commitment by the
Diocese of Crookston to continue its safe environment work.

Jeyapaul has refused to return from India to face two
criminal charges in the US.

According to KSTP-TV Channel, Peterson appeared at a news
conference yesterday to announce the settlement of USD
750,000.

"I`m here today to speak my truth, and to protect kids,"
the victim said.

Peterson said that she tried to kill herself a couple of
years ago and was hospitalised.

She said her faith in God and the church was "taken" by
Jeyapaul, and she wants to make sure he can`t hurt other kids.
"I just think he needs to be out of ministry and away
from kids and that`s my main concern right now," she said. "I
won`t rest until he is."

The settlement requires the Crookston Diocese to post a
picture of Jeyapaul on its website along with details of the
abuse.

The diocese must also warn parishioners about Jeyapaul
and notify Catholic authorities in India to express concern
that children were at risk from him.

Last year Jeyapaul had agreed to come to United States
and fight the charges against him, but later changed his mind.

Prosecutors in Roseau County are seeking to extradite
Jeyapaul to face two counts of criminal sexual conduct.
Jeyapaul has said he is innocent and has refused to
return to Minnesota.

The Diocese of Crookston said in a statement that it
regrets any harm that may have caused to any person due to the
actions of Jeyapaul, and the hardships the parishes have
endured during this difficult time.

The Safe Environment programme in the Diocese of
Crookston mandates that every volunteer, employee or clergy
who serves the Church is subject to a criminal background
check and safe environment training.

The statement added that on August 25, 2005, the Diocese
of Crookston received a complaint against Father Jeyapaul
alleging inappropriate behaviour with a teenage girl.
Upon receiving this complaint, the Diocese notified
the proper civil authorities.

PTI



First Published: Thursday, September 8, 2011 - 12:19

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