US woman accuses Indian priest of sexual abuse

via Uttara Choudhury / DNA - published on July 10, 2009

A 20-year-old woman sued the Catholic diocese of Crookston this week, alleging that in 2004, when she was 15, her parish priest, Reverend Joseph Jeyapaul, sexually abused her in the Blessed Sacrament Church in Greenbush, Minnesota.

The Crookston diocese, like the Roman Catholic Church in many other parts of the West, has been dealing with a shortage of priests by importing clerics from India. Jeyapaul was a manpower quick-fix and worked in the US diocese less than a year before returning to India in September 2005.

David Baumgartner, vicar-general of the diocese, told reporters that the diocese saw the woman’s allegations as credible.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (Snap), which is tracking the case, said it thinks Jeyapaul is still working as a priest in India. Roger Grundhaus, who works as a church official in the Crookston diocese, declined to comment on the whereabouts of Jeyapaul in India when DNA telephoned him on Saturday.

According to Thursday’s court filing, the plaintiff, identified only as ‘Jane Doe123’, grew up in a devout Roman Catholic family and suffered “severe emotional distress, loss of self-esteem, humiliation, and psychological trauma” after Jeyapaul sexually abused her in church.

The ‘Jane Doe’ lawsuit follows other swirling allegations against Jeyapaul, who was suspended in the short period he was in the US. It appears that in August 2005, complaints about Jeyapaul first came to the diocese’s notice after parish members complained that the Indian priest was touching young parish members ‘inappropriately’.

As the number of complaints snowballed, Jeyapaul asked senior clergymen for permission to leave the US in September 2005 to take care of a dying relative in India. While he was away, then bishop Victor Balke withdrew the US ‘invitation’ to Jeyapaul, effectively suspending him from the American diocese. This still allows him to work in India, however.

The complaints which may have nudged Jeyapaul to leave America do not involve the plaintiff who came forward much later with her own allegations.

Attorney Steven Anderson filed the lawsuit on behalf of ‘Jane Doe’ on Thursday with help from high-profile attorney Jeffrey Anderson, who has built a formidable reputation for winning hundreds of millions of dollars on behalf of clients who as children were sexually abused by priests belonging to Roman Catholic churches in the US.

The church has been rocked by a series of child sex abuse scandals in recent years, particularly in North America and Ireland.

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