East Timor: police arrest ex-priest for sexually abusing girls in his orphanage


April 28, 2019

The police in Timor-Leste have arrested a former priest who has been accused of sexually abusing young girls in his orphanage in the country’s enclave Oecusse.

“R.D.” was brought before the judge on Friday, April 26, and is now in custody, sources confirmed. Meanwhile the director of the shelter was arrested too on Sunday, April 28, after she organized an attack against a former resident of the orphanage whom she suspected of having given a statement against the priest.

Last November the Vatican dismissed R.D. from his clergy status punishing him for the crimes he allegedly committed when he was a priest. (READ: Vatican defrocks former U.S. cardinal over sex abuse claims) It is the first time that a case of sexual violence against minors by a member of the Catholic clergy has become public in Timor-Leste.

R.D. is an 82-year-old American who was a member of the congregation Society of the Divine Word (Societas Verbi Divini, SVD).

After his ordination in 1964 he went to Indonesia. Later he settled in Oecusse, Timor-Leste’s western enclave, where he established in 1992 Topu Honis Shelter Home, which presented itself as “a safe haven” for orphans, poor children, disabled adults and abused women.

Over the years it served hundreds of children. The sexual abuse took place in Topu Honis’ orphanage for young girls and boys, located in the isolated mountainous hamlet of Kutet. A second location in the coastal village Mahata accommodates the teenagers. R.D. was a respected priest and seen as a savior, who provided food, clothes, and education to the most deprived people in the area. His community called him “father” and “God.” But there was a dark side to him and the shelter.

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