The Rev. Jiang Denies Inappropriate Contact with Lincoln County Teenager
By Joel Currier
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
April 1, 2017
The Rev. Xiu Hui “Joseph” Jiang testified Friday that he never kissed on the mouth, sexually abused nor groomed a teenage girl over an 18-month relationship with her and her family.
But the priest did acknowledge that he sent hundreds of texts and emails expressing his love for them, and, in one instance, left the family a $20,000 check as well as an apology.
The 31-year-old Catholic priest’s testimony Friday in a Lincoln County courtroom was his first public response to abuse allegations that first surfaced five years ago. He is on trial this and next week in a civil suit accusing him of molesting the teen during a June 2012 a visit to her home in Old Monroe and in the St. Louis Cathedral Basilica rectory parking lot after Sunday Mass. At the time, Jiang was an associate pastor there.
Jiang emphatically denied on Friday ever having inappropriate contact with the teenager.
“They were my family,” Jiang said on the stand Friday. “I was very close to the [girl’s] family. I would do anything to help them.”
The teen’s parents sued Jiang, St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson and the St. Louis Archdiocese in 2013, accusing Jiang of abuse and Carlson of failing to supervise Jiang despite knowing that Jiang was dangerous to children. Carlson, who has watched much of the trial this week, was dismissed from the case shortly before the trial began Monday, but the Archdiocese remains a defendant. Jiang’s accuser was 16 at the time, the oldest of five sisters. She is now 21 and lives in the St. Louis area. The Post-Dispatch is not identifying her or her relatives because of the sex abuse allegation. Criminal charges against Jiang were dropped in 2013.
Jiang arrived in St. Louis in 2009 with Carlson, who was installed as archbishop that year. Originally from China, Jiang said he had wanted to be a Catholic priest since he was 4. He said he escaped religious oppression in China at age 20 and studied at St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, Minn. Jiang served as a deacon in Saginaw, Mich., when Carlson was bishop there. Jiang then moved to St. Louis and was ordained May 29, 2010.
“I am very proud to be a priest,” Jiang said Friday.
He met his accuser’s family at the St. Louis Cathedral Basilica that year and became close over the next 18 months — so close the family called him their “brother,” routinely exchanging texts and emails with him and discussed adopting him. He was in his mid-20s, often joined them for family outings, hosted them at the rectory or spent the night at the family home. He had been given his own key to their house.
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The accuser and her mother testified this week to seeking Jiang’s help as the family distanced itself from a Catholic nun — later deemed a fraud by the church — who claimed to have visions of evil spirits in some of the five sisters. For four years, the family said, the woman conducted exorcisms on them — or what family calls “deliverances” — to eradicate sins. Part of the family’s healing with Jiang included confession, prayer, Mass at the home and physical affection including hugging, holding and cuddling with the girls, according to court testimony.
“It was the one thing that we needed as spiritual healing” from the rogue nun, Jiang’s accuser said. “I enjoyed the cuddling and the emotional aspects and support.”
In June 2012, Jiang allegedly fondled the teen’s breasts under her shirt and slipped his hand into her gym shorts while she, her sisters and her mother were in a TV room playing games on the Nintendo Wii, the woman claimed in court this week. She said he also put her hand down his pants and held it there.
Jiang denied confessing anything to her mother but apologized for any “misunderstanding” in voicemails. He also left a $20,000 personal check on the windshield of the family minivan. That day, he bought a plane ticket home to China but ultimately stayed in St. Louis on Carlson’s advice.
“I was shocked,” Jiang said Friday. “This is my family accusing me of molesting my sister. … Merely the fact of an allegation like this would destroy a priest. At that moment, I did not think, and I just wanted to go home.”
The accuser’s attorneys also questioned why he told the girls they were beautiful and that he loved them in text messages, bought his accuser a $320 Coach purse and gave her a sweater he brought from China.
“I was their brother,” he said.
Carlson is expected to testify next week. The trial is scheduled to wrap up Friday.