Catholic Priest Who Repeatedly Raped New York Woman When She Was 14 Is Reinstated by the Church
February 25, 2016
A Catholic priest who was convicted last year by a U.S. court of sexually abusing a minor was reinstated by the church last month.
Indian priest Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul, 61, was suspended for less than a full year by his local diocese in India five years ago after being accused of sexually abusing two girls during a posting to Minnesota.
He later pleaded guilty to molesting one of the teenagers, who has not been identified publicly, and served time in jail. Both of the girls were 14 at the time of the alleged abuse.
|The Roman Catholic church in southern India lifted the suspension of Indian priest Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul, 61, convicted last year of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in the United States more than a decade ago|
|Megan Peterson, a 26-year-old artist living in New York, (pictured in 2012) accused Jeyapaul of raping her in his office whens he was 14. Jeyapaul pleaded guilty to sexual assault of a different girl in a plea deal in which the charges in his abuse of Peterson were dropped|
In January, the Vatican lifted Jeyapaul's suspension following a recommendation by an Indian bishop.
Megan Peterson, now 26 and living in New York, accused Jeyapaul of raping and sexually assaulting her over the course of a year when she was 14, according to the New York Daily News.
She was shocked after learning the priest had been reinstated by Catholic Church officials.
'It's very clear what side the Church is on and it's not about child protection or about morality,' Peterson, an artist who resides in Queens, told the New York Daily News.
'The bottom line is that the Church is not protecting children.'
The suspension of Jeyapaul was lifted last month after the bishop of the Ootacamund Diocese in India's Tamil Nadu state consulted with church authorities at the Vatican, said Rev. Sebastian Selvanathan, a spokesman for the diocese.
Bishop Arulappan Amalraj of Ootacamund had referred Jeyapaul's case to the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the suspension was lifted on the church body's advice, according to Selvanathan.
Jeyapaul was accused of sexually abusing Peterson and another teenage girl while serving as a priest in Crookston Diocese in Minnesota between 2004 and 2005.
The priest then fled to southern India following the allegations.
The Diocese of Ooty in southern India's Tamil Nadu state suspended Jeyapaul in 2010 before he was arrested by Interpol in 2012 and extradited to the U.S. to face trial.
|Attorney Jeff Anderson of St. Paul, Minnesota (pictured left in 2010), who represented the women, criticized church authorities for lifting Jeyapaul's suspension, saying that the Vatican must be held accountable|
Jeyapaul then pleaded guilty to sexual assault of the other girl in a plea deal in which the charges in his abuse of Peterson were dropped, according to the Daily News.
Following the plea deal, Roseau County district court sentenced him to a year in jail but he was released and deported to India in June 2015 on account of time served while awaiting trial.
The two Minnesota women both sued the Diocese of Crookston, Minnesota, and settled out of court.
Peterson won a $750,000 settlement in 2011, according to the Daily News.
Selvanathan said last week that while the Vatican had lifted Jeyapaul's suspension, the priest would not return to service.
'We have provided him accommodation but he will not have any active role in the Church,' Selvanathan told AFP.
The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, a U.S. advocacy group, has urged the Church to warn the public about Jeyapaul's past and expressed concern over his presence in India.
'We worry now about the safety of girls in India near Fr Jeyapaul,' the group said on its website.
|Jeyapaul was accused of sexually abusing two teen girls while serving as a priest in Crookston Diocese in Minnesota between 2004 and 2005. He was transferred to Blessed Sacrament Church, Peterson's parish in Greenbush, Minnesota|
Peterson, the New York City coordinator for SNAP, called the decision to lift Jeyapaul's suspension a 'slap in the face.'
'I thought I had seen everything but I was clearly mistaken,' she told the Daily News.
'I'm very hurt and very angry. Actions speak louder than words and this is a slap in the face.'
Peterson first came forward in 2011 to say she was abused by Jeyapaul in 2004 when she was seeking advice about becoming a nun.
During that time, Jeyapaul had been transferred to Blessed Sacrament Church, Peterson's parish in Greenbush, a Minnesota town near the Canadian border.
Peterson was an altar server and a singer in the church choir when she said Jeyapaul first raped her in his office after he invited her in to talk about books, according to the Daily News.
She said the abuse continued for nearly a year and that the priest threatened her with 'physical violence' if she told anyone. Other attacks reportedly occurred in the church confessional.
Peterson described Jeyapaul as a predator and thinks she was a target because of her vulnerability, according to the Daily News.
|Jeyapaul worked as a priest at Infant Jesus Church in India, but was banned from being around children|
She had been sexually abused when she was younger and had embraced her faith as a way to deal with the previous abuse, according to the news site.
Peterson said that Jeyapaul would tell her the sexual assaults were her fault, telling her to 'go to confession and confess making him impure' before she eventually told a counselor about the assaults. The counselor then alerted authorities.
Bishop Amalraj lifted Jeyapaul's suspension in mid-January, but he has not yet been assigned any responsibilities, Selvanathan said.
'That will be decided in May, when decisions are taken by the diocese on changes and assignments,' he said.
Attorney Jeff Anderson of St. Paul, Minnesota, who represented the women, criticized church authorities for lifting Jeyapaul's suspension.
'The Vatican must be held accountable. ... This is on them. This is on the pope,' Anderson said.
He added that they exploring further legal action over the decision to lift Jeyapaul's suspension and will announce details soon.
'They're both quite upset, disturbed and feel deeply betrayed that they would have the audacity to consider even putting him back in ministry,' Anderson said. 'To use Megan's words, "They'll never get it and I'm feeling re-victimized."'
The Vatican office of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declined immediate comment.