Priest Charged with Sex Abuse in Australia
News Reported He Had Been Working in Samoa Despite Charges

By Reese Dunklin
The Dallas Morning News [Australia]
October 5, 2004

A Catholic priest whose Australian bosses let him work overseas as a fugitive has been charged with sexually abusing seven more boys, signaling that his alleged misconduct may be more widespread than previously known.

The Rev. Frank Klep remains free on bail pending a hearing on 24 new charges next month in Melbourne, Australia. He couldn't be located for comment.

The seven accusers came forward after The Dallas Morning News revealed last summer that the priest had remained in ministry on the South Pacific island of Samoa despite being wanted on Australian charges since 1998.

Also OnlineMultimedia: Runaway priests hiding in plain sight

The Samoan government, prompted by The News' report, swiftly deported him because he had failed to disclose a 1994 conviction in the abuse of two brothers.

He was immediately arrested back in Australia on the 1998 charges, which involved one boy.

The allegations against Father Klep date to the 1970s, when he worked at a boarding school near Melbourne run by his Catholic order, the Salesians of Don Bosco.

Australian police declined to discuss the new cases. But one man whom Father Klep previously admitted abusing said he is one of the seven victims.

The man said police have a copy of a letter the priest wrote during a secret church inquiry in which he described himself as "the perpetrator."

"How often I have wishes that I might in some way be able to undo the damage caused and the suffering inflicted!" Father Klep wrote his religious superiors in 2001.

Father Klep made similar statements when The News interviewed him in Samoa this year. He denied, however, that he drugged the student in the school infirmary before the abuse.

Ultimately, the Salesians apologized to the man, who was in his early teens at the time of the incidents, and paid him a settlement.

Father Klep's superior, the Rev. Ian Murdoch, could not be reached for comment Tuesday. He has said the order did not send the priest abroad to help him evade the law.

Police have said they couldn't bring him back on the 1998 charges because Australia had no extradition treaty with Samoa. But they have acknowledged failing to keep an alert on the priest's passport, which allowed him to re-enter the country several times undetected


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.
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