Arrest warrant issued for Sherwood priest in church hidden-camera scandal

By Emily E. Smith
August 18, 2015

St. Francis Catholic Church and St. Francis School are located in Sherwood.

St. Francis School shares a campus with St. Francis Catholic Church in Sherwood.

The St. Francis church and school buildings sit beneath a canopy of pine trees in Sherwood.

St. Francis Catholic Church is located in Sherwood.

Police say a "wall socket hidden camera" was found in the bathroom of St. Francis Catholic Church on April 26.

Ysrael Bien

An arrest warrant was issued Tuesday for Father Ysrael Bien, a Sherwood priest, in the case of a hidden camera found in a church bathroom.

Bien, 34, is wanted on misdemeanor charges of invasion of privacy, tampering with evidence and initiating a false report. Sherwood Capt. Ty Hanlon, a police spokesman, said officers believe the priest may have left the country.

The arrest warrant comes after police obtained records showing that a "wall socket hidden camera" was purchased under Bien's name and shipped to Bien's address, Hanlon said.

The investigation began in May after a 15-year-old parishioner of St. Francis Catholic Church discovered the camera April 26, court records say.

In the bathroom next to the vesting room, where altar servers and the priest prepare for Mass, the teenager noticed an electrical outlet placed at waist-height next to the toilet. Thinking that was odd, he pulled it from the wall and brought it to the priest. The device contained a hidden camera.

Bien told the boy and his father that he would report the discovery to police, according to the records. Instead, for the next three weeks, Bien lied to the boy's parents about making a report and then fabricated a detailed story about the non-existent police investigation, records say.

The parents continued pressing him for updates, and Bien admitted May 19 that he had lied to them about alerting authorities, according to records. He told them the camera had gone missing shortly after their son found it, and the priest feared he would suffer consequences for losing it.

The next day, Bien contacted police and reported that a hidden camera was missing.

The Archdiocese of Portland said Bien was placed on leave June 24, more than a month after church leaders became aware of the incident.

Hanlon said Bien may have left the country on June 30.

Update, 5:25 p.m.:

The Archdiocese of Portland responded to the news of an arrest warrant for Ysrael Bien with the following statement:

"Officials at the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon were saddened to learn that Washington County prosecutors have brought criminal charges against Father Ysrael Bien in relation to the April discovery of a hidden camera in a church restroom.

Archbishop Alexander Sample stated:  'It is gravely troubling to find out that one of our priests has been charged with criminal misconduct, but we appreciate the diligence of the Sherwood Police Department in pursuing its investigation of the incident. We will continue to cooperate with authorities in the resolution of this matter. Our prayers are with parishioners of Saint Francis Church, Sherwood, and all who have been affected.'

Archdiocesan officials learned only after he left the country that Fr. Bien had traveled to The Philippines to visit family. He was asked to return, but to their knowledge he has not yet come back to Oregon. Fr. Bien has been on administrative leave from his ministerial duties at St. Francis because of his involvement in the investigation of the hidden camera incident."

More information to come.



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