Priest Blames Minor for Inciting Sex

By J, Arthur
India Abroad
August 20, 2004

The Reverend Simon Palathingal, 62, returned to Milwaukee, 14 years after leaving, to plead guilty in a Wisconsin court August 8 for sexually molesting a nine-year-old boy during his earlier sojourn.

Though he had publicly denied any wrongdoing, Milwaukee detectives who had arrested him outside a Metuchen, New Jersey parish in June revealed in the criminal complaint that Palathingal admitted to having sex with the minor, but blamed the boy for initiating it.

The criminal complaint notes that Palathingal told one of the two detectives who had met him with a warrant outside his New Jersey home: "The defendant stated... that the boy was the aggressor 100% and he, the defendant, would give in.'

Details of the agreement were not available, as Palathingal was required by state law to formally plead guilty before a judge who will then initiate the sentencing phase. The priest could serve a few years in a Wisconsin prison before being deported to India.

The boy, now 23, moved out of Wisconsin to Louisiana soon after the molestation started, and was under the impression till about a year ago that Palathingal was in prison. When hundreds of sex scandals in Catholic parishes across America began springing up, Nick Janovsky felt compelled to contact the officials in Milwaukee and was shocked to find that Palathingal was a free man, his lawyer James S Smith, who has represented over 60 boys allegedly molested by priests, had told India Abroad.

Reacting to Palathingal's efforts to shift the blame to him, Janovsky told the Milwaukee media: It is such a malicious lie. How the hell can a 9 year old be an aggressor?'

Palathingal was held on a $1 million bond in New Jersey until early August, because of the fear that his family in India could have raised the $500,000 that was earlier decreed as bail. The officials in New Jersey considered Palathingal a flight risk.

His arrest and subsequent guilty plea has prompted the Metuchen diocese to plan for a radical program to toughen background checks for priests from other dioceses. An extensive database is being created, at a cost of thousands of dollars. Critics of the church want a national database to be created.

Palathingal, who was ordained in India, left Wisconsin for India just when his accuser confided in his mother. He returned a few years later to America, which has a chronic shortage of priests, but served parishes in other states, notably Louisiana. There are complaints that he engaged in inappropriate sexual talk with a boy there, but no charges have been framed.

Metuchen diocese officials told India Abroad that the chapter of Salesians of Don Bosco in Louisiana - a Catholic religious organization specializing in the education of boys - did not inform them that Palathingal had served in Wisconsin.

They assured New Jersey church officials that Palathingal was in good standing with the church. Critics of the Catholic Church have been saying that many religious orders send scandalous priests to far away dioceses - or often out of the country.

James S Smith said had the Wisconsin church officials acted quickly on Janovsky's allegations, Palathingal would have paid for his transgressions long ago. Smith said because a civil suit against the priest was dismissed after a Wisconsin supreme court decision in the mid-1990s barred victims of child sexual abuse from suing the church, Palathingal was able to work in other parishes outside Wisconsin and have a comfortable life.

"From what I know, sexual predators do not stop with one person," he said. "God forbid if there are other victims there, they should not hesitate to speak up. They are not to be ashamed. For the guilt belongs to someone they trusted."

Smith also blamed the diocese of Metuchen. "If they [the diocese of Metuchen] had seriously checked every place Palathingal had been, they would have realized what they were getting," he said.

'After 10 years, we finally have an acceptable plea of guilt,' Janovsky told reporters outside the Milwaukee courtroom, where he was accompanied by his mother and aunt.

'I want to say thanks to the court system for finally bringing justice, because now there will finally be no more victims.'


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.
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