Priest from Cincinnati accused of abusing 'multiple young boys' in the Philippines
By Dan Horn, Cameron Knight And Sarah Brookbank
December 06, 2018
|Roman Catholic priest Rev. Kenneth Bernard Hendricks poses for his mugshot at the Bureau of Immigration in Manila. Philippine authorities arrested Hendricks, accusing him of sexually assaulting altar boys. He also is charged by U.S. officials in Cincinnati.|
|In this Dec. 5, 2018, photo released by the Bureau of Immigration Public Information Office, Roman Catholic priest Rev. Kenneth Bernard Hendricks looks at documents after being arrested in a church in Naval town in the island province of Biliran, central Philippines.|
|In this Dec. 5, 2018, photo released by the Bureau of Immigration Public Information Office, Roman Catholic priest Rev. Kenneth Bernard Hendricks, right, looks at documents after being arrested in a church in Naval town in the island province of Biliran, central Philippines.|
The first boy went to police in early November, telling officers in his remote town in the Philippines a harrowing tale about the Catholic priest from Cincinnati he accused of sexually abusing him for years.
Then another boy told a similar story. And another. And another.
Within weeks, Filipino police and U.S. immigration officials had arrested the Rev. Kenneth Bernard Hendricks on charges of sexually assaulting five altar boys in his home and in his church.
The criminal complaint against the 77-year-old Hendricks, which was released Thursday, portrays him as a serial predator who befriended young boys as part of a grooming process that included watching pornography with them, bathing with them and, ultimately, abusing them dozens of times.
In excerpts of telephone recordings between the priest and one of his accusers, Hendricks admitted to abusing boys, saying "it was a mistake on my part." He made no apologies, though, and expressed disappointment that he'd been caught.
"Happy days are gone," he said in one recording, according to the criminal complaint. "It's all over."
Hendricks is from Cincinnati and regularly returns to the area, federal prosecutors said, although it's unclear what he did or where he lived before returning to the Philippines. They have asked anyone who knows about Hendricks' activities here to contact authorities.
"It's horrifying," said U.S. Attorney Ben Glassman, whose office is leading the investigation in the United States. "It's horrible, horrible abusive conduct. It's grooming young children who wanted to be involved in church activities and sexually abusing them."
A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati said church officials here don't supervise Hendricks and know little about him. Though he is from Cincinnati, he was a Franciscan Brother at the St. Anthony Friary in Mount Airy in the 1960s and would therefore have been supervised by his religious order, rather than the archdiocese.
"We know next to nothing about this man," said Mike Schafer, the archdiocese spokesman.
During a press conference Thursday afternoon, Schafer said Hendricks did receive financial support from the archdiocese's mission office, which islocated in Cincinnati but is tied directly to the Vatican. Officials said Hendricks was one of about 75 missionaries from Southwest Ohio receiving similar support.
"None of these individuals work for, or take direction from, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati," a statement from the archdiocese said.
According to Enquirer archives, Hendricks received his "Franciscan robes" in 1962 and, in 1966, was the assistant director of the Over-the-Rhine Youth Club, an organization operated by the Franciscans.
Hendricks, who had not yet been ordained as a priest, continued to work with the Franciscans until 1986, when he was "dispensed of his vows." That means he formally left the Franciscan order.
Toni Cashnelli, a spokeswoman with the Franciscan Friars, said Hendricks never was ordained a priest while with the order. She said she did not know why Hendricks was dispensed of his vows or whether the Friars had received any complaints about him.
In the Catholic Church, dispensing of vows essentially releases an individual from the obligation of his vows. It could be done at the person's request or because the religious order found some reason to do so.
Cashnelli said archived records about Hendricks were turned over to federal investigators Tuesday.
At some point after leaving the Friars, Hendricks moved to the Philippines and became a priest. He worked for decades in that country, including in the remote village of Naval, where the allegations against him surfaced.
"Any allegations like this are horrific, shocking and inexcusable," Cashnelli said. "It's just awful."
At least some Catholics in Cincinnati knew Hendricks was working in the Philippines. A 2009 article in The Catholic Telegraph identifies Hendricks as a priest and notes he's from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
Shaefer said that some local parishes may have "twinning" relationship with churches in the Philippines. He said it's an important part of the mission of the church to foster their relationship. He said he wasn't sure which churches were paired with those in the Philippines or which had arranged for members to meet with Hendricks.
The article describes Hendricks as a gracious tour guide for a group of Cincinnati visitors and says he "invited the group to his small parish for a festive celebration at the end of the Christmas season."
Prosecutors said that kind of gregarious exterior, along with his Roman collar, helped build trust among the people of his parish. They said the complaints from the five boys suggest he egregiously and frequently abused that trust.
Rev. Steve Angi, the chancellor for the archdiocese, said his organization is fully complying with investigators and trying to spread the word among priests and church members. The chancery assists priests and parishes with civil legal matters among other duties.
"We invite the victims to come forward," Angi said. "It is abhorrent any time a child is abused."
Since the accusations first surfaced in early November, prosecutors said, five other boys spoke out against Hendricks at a town hall meeting, saying they, too, had been abused by the priest.
"There's a high probability other children have been impacted by his actions," said Steve Francis, an agent with Homeland Security Investigations.
Glassman said his office and U.S. immigration officials are working with the Philippine government to extradite Hendricks to the United States for prosecution on charges that could send him to prison for the rest of his life.
Hendricks, who is now in jail in Manila, is facing prosecution here because he's a Cincinnati resident, even if the crimes he's accused of committing occurred elsewhere. The charges against him are federal because it's a federal crime for a U.S. citizen to commit a sexual offense overseas.
"I want to prosecute this case," Glassman said.
Whether he'll get the chance is unclear. Philippine police took part in the investigation and also have charged him with sexual abuse.
When asked if the Philippine government wants to keep Hendricks and prosecute him there, Glassman didn't answer. He said only that his office is working on returning him to him to the United States.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has targeted the Catholic Church in his heavily Catholic nation, describing bishops as liars and urging Catholics to "kill your bishops" because "they are useless fools."
The volatile Duterte, who has led a violent war on drugs in his country, has claimed he was abused by an American priest as a teenager.
According to the Associated Press, Hendricks has lived in the Philippines for 37 years. Dana Sandoval, a spokesman for that country's Bureau of Immigration, told the AP the case is "both shocking and appalling."
"The victims were in his house and the abuses were committed while he was taking a bath with each of them," Sandoval said. "We will not allow sexual predators to prey on our children. People like him must be kicked out and banned from the Philippines."
Federal prosecutors said Hendricks is accused of abusing teenagers as well as children as young as 7. He is accused of having anal and oral sex with the boys numerous times, as often as three times per week in some cases.
When confronted on the phone, according to the criminal complaint, Hendricks told one of his victims he probably will have to retire. When the boy asked him if he abused other boys, Hendricks acknowledged he had.
"It happened," Hendricks said, according to the phone excerpt. "It was a mistake on my part. Should have known better than trying to just have life.
"That's why you make mistakes," he said later. "You have to learn from them, so I have to learn."