'Church Should Have Done More' to Monitor Priest
Critics Question Whether the Grand Rapids Catholic Diocese Dealt Adequately with Previous Concerns about a Priest Facing Sex Charges
Grand Rapid Press
May 28, 2004
This week's arrest of a Portland priest for alleged sexually abusive activity has some people wondering whether the local Catholic diocese could have done more.
"We're all just praying hard about it," said Kay Krupp, a member of Holy Family Catholic Church in Sparta. "People are hurting right now."
The Rev. Shamaun Beas served at Holy Family for six months in 2001 and most recently worked at St. Patrick in Portland. He remains jailed on a $5 million bond for allegedly attempting to solicit sex over the Internet from investigator posing as a 14-year-old girl.
Robert Horter, a longtime parishioner at Holy Family, was stunned by the allegations. He knew Beas as a hard-working priest who helped many at the church.
"He was a very priestly man, a very holy man."
But, he said: "Father Shamaun takes his sin to the foot of the altar like anyone else."
Horter was unaware of any problems during Beas' time at Holy Family. In retrospect, he said: "The church should've done more follow-up."
The Diocese of Grand Rapids on Tuesday said it knew of no prior allegations against Beas, who is here from Pakistan on a three-year internship. But on Wednesday it released a statement revealing "questionable behavior" that spurred an evaluation and counseling program "for issues that appeared rooted in cultural and relational differences."
On Thursday, the diocese elaborated. Mary Haarman, diocese spokeswoman, said in an e-mail to The Press the questionable behavior "is related to words or gestures involving some (girls) -- none that (are) related to any criminal activity as outlined by law.
"I would put them in the category of inappropriate comments or actions on the scale of a hug."
She said evaluation and counseling were aimed at helping him deal with cultural and relational differences.
David Clohessy, national director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said it was not the first time a priest allegedly has used the Internet to try and commit abuses. He said he knew of about a dozen cases across the country.
He was pleased authorities are taking the alleged offense seriously, but he was unhappy with the nebulous statement from the diocese Wednesday.
"In any number of cases involving foreign priests, clearly abusive behavior is minimized by using phrases like 'cultural differences,' " Clohessy said. "In virtually no culture is it permissible to sexually molest a child."
Hearing that Beas underwent counseling before raised a red flag with Ann Annis, associate director of contract research at Calvin College and co-author of the book "Set Us Free: What the Church Needs to Know from Survivors of Abuse."
Without knowing the details of the "questionable behavior," Annis said it hit a familiar note.
"The way the Catholic church has responded in years past, although they seem to be getting better recently, was to give the priest counseling and then move him to another church," she said. "It's more likely that an offender would not be rehabilitated than they will."
Sue Blackall, a member of Holy Family for 45 years, was shocked by the news of Beas' arrest. She said she saw him at Masses and heard him speak about the trials of being a Christian in Pakistan.
She said she never witnessed any questionable behavior, but he was very friendly.
Haarman said the diocese is reviewing its procedures for admitting visiting priests. In addition to Beas, who the diocese has placed on administrative leave, the diocese has two other visiting priests. The Rev. Ayub Nasar, also from Pakistan, is a chaplain at St. Mary's Mercy Medical Center; the second is a parish administrator in Edmore..
Haarman said the steps to allow a visiting priest into the diocese vary depending on the country of origin, among other things.
"That is what is being reviewed," Haarman said.
Beas was arrested in Warren as part of a sting by the state Attorney General's office. Charged with multiple felonies, he is being held in the Macomb County Jail and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
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