Sept. 9, 2019
By Tim Sullivan
The American priest’s voice echoed over the phone line.
“Happy days are gone,” he said in the 2018 call, recorded by a young man whose accusations would shake this little island village and reveal how allegations of sex crimes by priests are still ignored, sometimes for decades, in one of the world’s most Catholic countries. “It’s all over.”
The young man later told The Associated Press he was 12 when Father Pius Hendricks first took him into the bathroom of the church’s little rectory and sexually assaulted him.
“‘It’s a natural thing,'” he says the priest told him, “‘It’s part of becoming an adult.'”
The abuse continued for years, he says. But he told no one until a village outsider began asking questions about the priest’s generosity with local boys, and he feared his brother would be the next victim.
In November, he went to the police.
Soon after, local authorities arrested Hendricks, 78, and charged him with child abuse.
Since then, investigators say, about 20 boys and men, one as young as 7, have reported that the priest sexually abused them. Investigators say the allegations go back well over a decade — though many believe the abuse goes back for generations — continuing until just months before the arrest.
Hendricks is from Cincinnati and regularly returned to the area, federal prosecutors said.
A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati previously told The Enquirer 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. He left the Franciscans around 1986 and was soon ordained as a priest by the local diocese.
Hendrick’s arrest was a sudden fall for a priest who had presided over the community for nearly four decades, rebuilding its chapel, pressing local officials to pave the village road, paying school fees for poor children.
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