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  Priest Accused of Abuse Now Running Orphanage

By Ziva Branstetter
Tulsa World [Oklahoma]
August 1, 2002

A Catholic priest who is accused of molesting a Pryor girl in 1999 and was returned to India by Tulsa Diocese officials told the Tulsa World on Wednesday that he is operating an orphanage in that country and is still a priest.

John Jangam said he is operating an orphanage with 35 boys and girls ranging from 5 to 10 years old. He said most have no parents or live in poverty, so "we start to bring these children into our house."

"They are very poor... I am trying to help them and educate them," said Jangam. He said he provides food, clothing, education and shelter for the children.

Jangam was interviewed by the World via telephone from his orphanage in the city of Vijayawada, India. The city is in India's southeast coastal region about 150 miles northeast of Bangalore.

Pryor police are now investigating the case, the girl's mother said Wednesday.

The president of a national group of abuse survivors called on Tulsa Diocese Bishop Edward Slattery to contact Vatican officials and criminal authorities about the case.

Slattery said Tuesday that Jangam had been excommunicated and returned to India. But Jangam said it was untrue that he was excommunicated and that he is still a priest.

"My visa was only for three years, and that's why I left," Jangam said. He added that Tulsa Diocese officials also asked him to leave after the girl made her claims.

Jangam denied the girl's claims that he molested her, but he acknowledged that she was in his bedroom once to watch television.

The 16-year-old girl claims that she was repeatedly molested by Jangam while he was a priest at her Pryor church in 1999. She was outraged after learning that he is continuing to work with children and criticized Tulsa Diocese officials, who stated in letters to her that they could not locate the man.

"That is horrible. You can track him down, but the church can't," she said. "If the church would have had an investigation in the first place, . . . for goodness sakes, he is working in an orphanage."

The girl said that during a six-week period in 1999, Jangam molested her several times while he was a pastor at St. Mark's Catholic Church in Pryor. She said she was 13 at the time.

The girl said one episode occurred in Jangam's bedroom, where he asked her to lie on his bed and fondled her breasts under her clothing. She claims that he also kissed her on the mouth in a confessional and that he hugged her and touched her genitals in the church library.

Jangam told the girl that he was lonely and that "it's good to have a father figure," she said.

Just days after the girl's family told another priest that Jangam had tried to hug and kiss her inappropriately, Tulsa diocese officials withdrew their sponsorship of Jangam and he returned to India. The girl said Monsignor Dennis Dorney, vicar general of the Tulsa Diocese, told her not to tell anyone about the matter until Jangam was out of the country.

Dorney has said he does not recall telling the girl that.

Church officials sent a letter July 2 to the girl's family, offering to pay for her counseling.

"As we told you, we did write to his former bishop and urged him to try to prevent the man from working with children or youth if indeed he knows where he lives in that vast country," states the letter from Edward Maillet, a former Tulsa Diocese chancellor.

The girl said she had been concerned that Jangam had continued contact with children and that she had asked church officials if they could find him.

In a letter to the girl's family dated June 25, Maillet states that the girl "most often expresses concern that John Jangam might now be continuing to misbehave with young girls in India. We have explained to her that we find her concern to be very understandable, but that we cannot know whether that is happen ing or not happening... We further explained that in greatest likelihood, he will never again function as a priest."

The letter also addresses the girl's suggestion that the matter be "made known to the people of her parish."

"It is not clear what good would be accomplished by that... She is certainly free to discuss the matter with whomever she wishes... We also told her that what becomes public knowledge in the parish will almost certainly become public knowledge well beyond the parish."

In several letters to the diocese, the girl said she believed that church officials had done all they could to address the matter and praised their handling of it.

In December, Jangam wrote letters to members of his former Oklahoma parish seeking funds for his orphanage in India. The letters contained Jangam's address and phone number in India.

The letter states: "My main aim is overall rehabilitation by providing food, proper clothing, education, medical care and love and affection. I plan to give everything, whatever they lost at home, especially love."

The girl said Jangam told her he had been a principal in India before coming to Oklahoma. He had also been assigned to a position at the University of Tulsa before his assignment at St. Mark's.

"I am very surprised, because I don't know how many times Monsignor Dorney and Dr. Maillet told me we cannot find him," the girl said. "I thought there was nothing else they could do.

He was always around youth his whole adult life, and . . . I just wanted to make sure the church did everything in their power to make sure he never did this again. I trusted them."

Maillet said church records show that the girl did not initially tell details of the alleged abuse and that she only recently alleged sexual abuse.

"What we were told at that time was that he had attempted to hug and kiss her. We did not regard that as sexual abuse or sexual molestation, but it was certainly reprehensible or inappropriate."

The case was not reported to Pryor police because the girl's family did not seem interested in pursuing a criminal case, Maillet said.

Her mother, Linda La Porte, said that is untrue.

Maillet said Jangam's claims that he has not been excommunicated are untrue. Jangam revealed what the girl told him during confession and thereby "excommunicated himself," Maillet said.

"It's possible that somehow or another he went through steps and got himself reinstated," he said.

Maillet said he was surprised to learn that Jangam still claimed to be a priest and is running an orphanage. Slattery's office had written to Jangam's bishop in India and urged him to try to prevent Jangam from having contact with children.

"I would be very, very distressed to hear that, especially in light of the fact that we wrote to the bishop," Maillet said.

Jangam said there is no reason for concern over the fact that he has access to children. He said he employs a cook and a teacher in his orphanage.

"I am very clear in my conscience... Things like this come up because some people may like to get money out of a priest."

The girl's family has not sued the church or requested a financial settlement regarding the case. Though the church offered to pay for counseling, that offer has not yet been accepted, her mother said.

David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said it is common for church officials to claim that they cannot find priests who are accused of abuse.

"We've seen over and over again that they don't know where these perpetrators are and any person with Internet access can find them... What that girl said is what we hear from virtually every survivor: 'I just want to make sure that other people are safe.' "

Though Maillet said what the girl initially alleged was not sexual molestation, Clohessy said police should have been notified of the case before Jangam was returned to India.

"No institution can effectively police itself, and certainly church officials shouldn't at this stage try. That's the job of a professional, unbiased law enforcement personnel."

 
 

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