Deacon Charged With Sexual Assault

By Brooks Baehr
July 28, 2005

Parishioners at Saint Ann's Church on Maui are in shock after the head of their parish was arrested on 62 counts of sexual assault.

Deacon James Ron Gonsalves, 68, was behind bars at the Maui Community Correctional Center Thursday night. Gonsalves had been in charge of Saint Ann's for the past six years, but he's been removed from that post and put on leave because of the alleged sexual misconduct.

Saint Ann's has a relatively small congregation of about 230 active parishioners. It didn't have a full time priest, so in 1999 deacon Gonsalves was hired as church administrator.

"A priest would come in on weekends to say mass and to hear confessions, that sort of thing, because a deacon can not do that. But everything else in the parish. he was in charge," said Patrick Downes, spokesman for the Catholic diocese of Honolulu.

Downes said church leaders heard late last month that Gonsalves was the subject of sexual abuse allegations.

"Based on what the diocese learned [on] June 22, the diocese placed Deacon Ron Gonsalves on administrative leave at that time," Downes added.

Gonsalves is charged with 30 counts of first-degree sexual assault and 32 counts of third-degree sexual assault. His alleged victim was a minor when the alleged offenses occurred between the summer of 2002 and 2005.

"I could never believe that he would do anything like this. I mean, we know him. My mom grew up with him. Everybody knows him well, and this is not his style," said Wendall Molina, who lives in Waihee and attends St. Ann's.

Gonsalves attorney Philip Lowenthal issued a short statement about the case.

"Mister Gonsalves has entered his plea of not guilty. He intends to present his case through the court, not the press," Lowenthal said.

Gonsalves' initial court appearance Thursday came one week to the day after Larry Silva was ordained and installed as Bishop of Honolulu.

People who watched Silva being installed had no idea a scandal was brewing, but by then Bishop Silva knew about the criminal investigation into Gonsalves' alleged misconduct.

"It was just a marvelous ceremony, but this just shows that the church that he was called to shepherd is a very human church and he is going to have to deal with very human problems among his clergy," Downes added.

Downes told KGMB9 the Catholic Diocese takes the allegations against Gonsalves very seriously. It has offered counseling to the alleged victim, but the victim has not yet accepted the offer.

Gonsalves bail was set at $790,000. He has a bail hearing Friday morning in Wailuku.


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