In the year after “Spotlight” focused renewed public attention on the Catholic Church’s horrific betrayal of its mission, its members and humanity by the enabling of child sexual predators within its ranks, how could the Church not realize that reinstating a convicted rapist priest, as it did this week, undermines all of its efforts to regain the trust and faith it had forfeited?
After months in which Pope Francis presumed to tell the governments of the world what its moral obligations were, how could he allow this to occur?
In short, how can a credible religion have broken ethics alarms? How can the Catholic Church preach morality while rejecting ethics?
Father Joseph Jeyapaul, a Catholic priest from India, served in the Crookston, Minnesota diocese from 2004 to 2005. While he was there, he raped at least two adolescent girls. I say “at least” because he admitted to raping them to cop a plea. Who knows who else he may have assaulted?
After being charged with the crimes, including rape and forcing at least one of his victims to perform fellatio on him, Father Joseph escaped to India, where an Interpol warrant got him extradited back to Minnesota. There he confessed, and as part of a plea bargain, received an outrageously light sentence of a year and a day for pleading guilty to one count of molestation.
Don’t ask me to explain why any prosecutor whose law license wasn’t obtained by passing a quiz about “Law and Order” episodes would make such a deal. I assume that some kind of political pressure from the Church was involved, or that the prosecutors were Catholic, or that they had brain lesions or something. Frankly, I’d rather not talk about it.
Jeyapaul was suspended from the priesthood and served his time in Minnesota. The U.S. deported him back to India with a DO NOT RETURN TO SENDER label after his release last July. Meanwhile, the Minnesota diocese had to pay millions in a civil lawsuit, during which we learned that the rapist priest had told one of his victims in the confessional that she was at fault, and had made Jeyapaul “impure” by letting him abuse her.
Does the term “evil” come to mind, or would you call that too judgmental?
Now comes the amazing part. In February, the Vatican lifted Jeyapaul‘s suspension and restored him to the priesthood. It then assigned him to a new parish in India, where he is now the diocesan head of its commission for education.
I’m sure it’s also a great place to meet chicks.
Minnesota attorney Jeff Anderson reacted to this news predictably, and in a press conference stated what is obvious to everyone but the Vatican and Pope Francis. “We are not only disgusted and alarmed, but we realize there is a serious danger,” he said. “Pope Francis has broken a pledge. This priest is a predator who needs to be stopped, and they have chosen not to stop him.”
Yes, that would be a fair assessment of this episode.
Megan Peterson, one of the girls raped by Father Jeyapaul when she was 14, has now sued the Indian Church for damages, saying in her complaint that this action by the Church makes her feel “abused, degraded and re-victimized all over again.” I don’t know it her suit will stand up, but her statement to the Indian news media is hard to argue with.
“It’s a well known fact that perpetrators or sexual molesters generally don’t stop at one victim. In fact there are multiple incidents involving him during his short stay in Minnesota. So, without a doubt children are at risk of being wounded by Father Joseph Jeyapaul,” Peterson told India Today. “Father Jeyapaul was a very manipulative, violent person. He used threat against me, my life to get me to cooperate with him.”
The Ootacamund Diocese in Tamil Nadu, India has yet to comment, and the Vatican has remained silent as well. Does it matter what they say? I can guess, as can you. They will say that the Church embraces forgiveness, and that we are all sinners. The good, chastened priest has confessed, and is rehabilitated in the eyes of the Church and the Lord. He can be trusted now to go on with his important work.
Then the Catholic Church will go about its work of convincing human beings that it can be trusted to be a force for good in the world when it knowingly inflicts predator priests—still!—on its members. Incredibly, many, indeed most, will fall for it.
I am not being harsh. This is a fair verdict. I am not a Catholic, but I cannot imagine being so addled and robbed of common sense that I would read this story, nod, and think, “God bless him. Pope Francis is wise and compassionate.”
The Church has learned nothing from its existential crisis over the official enabling of child molesting priests all over the world, except that money and misplaced faith can cure just about anything. If it had learned anything else, such as, for example, that it has at least the same duty to keep sexual predators out of the workplace as high schools, theater companies, hospitals, police departments and delicatessens, it would not tell a confessed rapist priest that he was back in the good graces of his superiors—the Vatican, the Pope, God—and free to rape again.
Such a decision is proof of incompetence, hypocrisy, negligence, arrogance, irresponsibility, stupidity, and fraud. It is shining, neon example of signature significance in many directions:
An institution that was serious when it apologized for siccing thousands of predator priests on children doesn’t do this…not even once.
An organized religion that is worthy of faith, belief and trust will not permit this…not even once.
A Church that does not assume that it can get away with anything because its followers are thoroughly, permanently indoctrinated fools will not allow this…not even once.
A pope who has any claim to moral authority that could be persuasive directing others not to throw their gum on the sidewalk, much less regarding energy policy and the redistribution of wealth, will not tolerate this…not even once.
The Catholic Church, the Vatican and Pope Francis believe that faith is sufficient to overcome total, undeniable untrustworthiness.
So far, they have been right.