Indian diocese removes predator priest in settlement with U.S. victim of sexual abuse

By Michael O'keeffe
New York Daily News
October 4, 2016

An Indian diocese is removing convicted pedophile Rev. Joseph Jeyapaul to settle a lawsuit from one of his U.S. victims.
Photo by Marcus Santos

Activist Megan Peterson still wants to know why the Vatican reinstated Jeyapaul even after he was found guilty of sexual abuse in the U.S.

A sexual abuse survivor has scored an unprecedented victory against the Catholic Church, with an Indian diocese removing a predator priest who’d been shockingly reinstated after assaulting the woman when she was a teen in the U.S.

Officials in the Diocese of Ootacamund are removing Rev. Joseph Jeyapaul from the ministry and barring him from working with children. In a legal settlement, the diocese also agreed to provide sex abuse survivor Megan Peterson, formerly of Queens, with annual updates on the whereabouts and activities of Jeyapaul, the priest she says assaulted her when she was a teenager. She’d sued the diocese in federal court upon learning of Jeyapaul’s reinstatement.

The settlement marks the first time a foreign diocese has agreed to take responsibility for a predator priest after he left the U.S., said sex-abuse attorney Jeff Anderson.

"This is such a step forward for the survivors movement as a whole," Peterson said following a press conference in St. Paul announcing the settlement Monday.

She added that her quest for justice won't be complete until she learns why Jeyapaul was allowed to return to the ministry even after he pleaded guilty to sexual abuse charges in the U.S.

"The question that is not being answered is, why did the Vatican reinstate him?" Peterson said.

Under the agreement, Ootacamund church officials will provide her with regular updates about Jeyapaul for 10 years or until he is defrocked.

An attorney for the diocese, Thomas Braun, did not immediately return a request for comment.

Peterson, the former New York City coordinator for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, told the Daily News earlier this year that she was a deeply religious girl who dreamed of becoming a nun when Jeyapaul was transferred to her parish in Greenbush, Minn., a small town near the Canadian border.

Peterson, who moved to Wisconsin earlier this year, said Jeyapaul raped her in his office at the Blessed Sacrament Church in 2004 when she was 14. The abuse continued for almost a year, with some of the attacks taking place in a church confessional.

Peterson told a school counselor about the abuse, and the counselor notified law-enforcement officials. Jeyapaul fled to India in 2010 after he was charged with assaulting Peterson and another girl. The priest was arrested in 2012 by Interpol and extradited to the U.S.

Jeyapaul pleaded guilty to sexual assault of the second girl in a plea bargain deal. The charges stemming from his alleged abuse of Peterson were dropped.

Jeyapaul was sentenced to a year in prison but was released shortly after the plea deal was reached because of time served while awaiting trial. Peterson sued the Diocese of Crookston, Minn., and won a $750,000 settlement in 2011.

Peterson became alarmed, however, when she learned that the Diocese of Ootacamund, with the permission of the Vatican, had reinstated Jeyapaul, who was not only assigned to a new parish but also made the head of its commission for education.

Peterson, fearing the decision gave Jeyapaul the green light to abuse other children, filed a lawsuit in Minnesota federal court against the Diocese of Ootacamund in April.

"This is a testament to Megan's courage," Anderson said of the settlement.


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