Religious order conceals cleric’s previous abuse allegations in Canada

Church Militant [Ferndale MI]

January 16, 2024

By Jules Gomes

A German district court and an ecclesiastical court have both prosecuted a clerical sex abuser from India who re-offended in Germany after being investigated for allegations of abuse in Canada.

The diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart announced on Sunday that Fr. Ashok Mascarenhas, who was assigned to a ministry of university pastoral work in Weingarten in Upper Swabia, had been issued a penal decree earlier in November by Bp. Gebhard Fürst. 

Father Mascarenhas, whose identity is being concealed by the diocese but was obtained by Church Militant from diocesan sources, was charged with sexually assaulting a female student at the university in Weingarten and fined 900 euros by the Ravensburg district court in August. 

According to the allegations, the priest watched two young women playing billiards in the lounge of the Weingarten Evangelical Catholic University Community and suddenly grabbed one of the women’s bottoms. After the attack, the two women locked themselves away in fear.

The ecclesiastical penal decree came into effect after Mascarenhas and his religious order, the Society of the Catholic Apostolate (popularly known as the Pallottines), waived their right to appeal.The suggestion to use the priest in university work came from the order. GabTweet

The Pallottine Provincial Council has withdrawn Mascarenhas from Weingarten, and the diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart has also released the priest from all offices, tasks and services in the diocese.

Mascarenhas, who belongs to the Bangalore province of the Pallottines, was assigned to a Pallottine house in Weingarten that focuses on the order’s mission of promoting “intercultural community” in Germany. He was also part of the pastoral team serving three parishes in Weingarten.  

The abuser priest was removed from ministry in Canada in March 2016 after he was accused of child abuse in Fort Saskatchewan, in the archdiocese of Edmonton. Elk Island Catholic Schools confirmed the investigation involved the priest’s inappropriate behavior with a 15-year-old female student. 

The archdiocese of Edmonton confirmed that Mascarenhas had been removed from priestly ministry in the archdiocese and that this directive remained in effect. Catholics in the diocese were told that the priest did not “fully adhere” to “the code of conduct.”We relied on the certificates from the order and the employee.GabTweet

The Pallottine priest, assigned to Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Church, was investigated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for allegations of “undisclosed abuse,” but the RCMP did not file criminal charges against the priest. Mascarenhas was sent back to India.  

The Rottenburg-Stuttgart diocese said that the Pallottine order concealed the fact that the priest had already been investigated for sexual abuse in Canada. With this knowledge, the diocese would not have employed him in university pastoral care, the diocese noted.

“We researched this after the incident in Upper Swabia,” diocesan spokesman Gregor Moser said. “We relied on the certificates from the order and the employee” that included a “clearance certificate” from the order” that states “no relevant allegations are known.”

“The diocese also requires an extended certificate of good conduct, which was “expectedly clean,” Moser remarked. In addition, the priest had to make a “declaration of honor in the context of the prevention of sexual abuse.”

“The suggestion to use the priest in university work came from the order,” the diocesan spokesman added. “The deanery management supported this proposal.”

Schwäbische Zeitung reported earlier that the diocesan court has a recording of a conversation between the women from the Weingarten community and the two Pallottine priests, Fr. Mascarenhas and Fr. Michael Pfenning, stationed in Upper Swabia. 

In the taped conversation, Fr. Mascarenhas admits to the sexual assault but later denies having admitted to it. Bishop Fürst also knows that the recording exists and that the two young women locked themselves away in fear, the German media reported.

The Bangalore province of the Pallottines appointed Mascarenhas as the mission secretary during the COVID-19 pandemic, as can be seen from a video on the order’s website.

Meanwhile, the Pallottine order’s German website swiftly scrubbed the webpage describing the priest’s ministry in Weingarten. Church Militant contacted the religious order for comment but received no response. 

The diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart and the chair of the diocese’s Sexual Abuse Commission, Monika Stolz, also did not respond to a request for information.