Abscoding Indonesian seminarian arrested for abusing boys

Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) [Hong Kong]

March 6, 2024

By UCA News reporter

Engelbertus Lowa Sada is accused of molesting a 13-year-old student in Catholic-majority Flores Island

A Catholic major seminarian in Indonesia, who has been evading police following allegations of sexually abusing a minor seminarian, has been arrested.

Police in Catholic-majority Flores Island have placed seminarian Engelbertus Lowa Sada under a 20-day probe, police spokesman, Sukandar, told UCA News on March 5

The 27-year-old seminarian was transferred to Ngada regency in the predominantly Christian East Nusa Tenggara province on March 4, following his arrest in North Sumatra province on Feb. 27, said Sukandar, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

He said Sada has been evading arrest since last November, months after the parents of the victim filed a criminal case accusing him of sexually abusing their 13-year-old son twice in 2022.

Sada abused the victim at St. Yohanes Berchmans Mataloko Minor Seminary where he was doing a one-year pastoral orientation program, said Sukandar. He was teaching minor seminarians as part of the pastoral program. 

Sada was a member of the Capuchin religious order, but it expelled him soon after police began the investigation, a Church source said.

He started the mandatory pastoral orientation after completing four years of philosophy and some theology studies at St. Peter Major Seminary in Pematang Siantar, North Sumatra.

He was supposed to study for another two years before being ordained priest.

Sukandar said Sada faces 5-20 years of jail term if convicted. 

The head of the investigation team, I Ketut Setiawan, said Sada abused at least six other boys in the seminary, but neither they nor their parents dared to report it.

“The parents of the other six victims were reluctant to report this case because they were afraid that their children’s school activities and psychology would be disturbed,” said Setiawan.

Police arrested Sada from a parish in North Sumatra. Sada reportedly told police that he had no money to return to Ngada, where the charges were filed.

Azas Tigor Nainggolan, a lawyer and coordinator of the Indonesian bishops’ human rights forum told UCA News that Church officials should be proactive in investigating the case.

The hierarchy’s responsibility does not end in expelling the seminarian, they need to support the legal process to ensure justice, he added.The abuse in the seminary, the long silence about it, and the delay in reporting should become eye-openers for the local Church, Nainggolan said.

“It is reasonable to suspect that seminaries are not yet student-friendly places,” and officials do not pay enough attention to these matters, he said.

Since 2021, at least three Catholics have been accused of sexual abuse of children in Indonesia. 

In 2021, Syharil Marbun, a church worker at St. Herkulanus Parish Church in Depok in Bogor Diocese, West Java, was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for abusing 20 altar boys of the parish.

In 2022, Depok District Court in West Jawa sentenced Lukas Ngalngola to 14 years in prison for sexually assaulting boys at an orphanage near Jakarta, the national capital.