Cincinnati Priest in Philippines Accused of Sexually Abusing "Multiple Young Boys"
By Jim Gomez
December 6, 2018
A Catholic priest from Cincinnati is facing federal charges alleging he sexually abused multiple young boys in a remote central Philippines town in a case one official described as "shocking and appalling."
Philippine immigration authorities arrested Fr. Kenneth Bernard Hendricks in Naval town on the island province of Biliran, Bureau of Immigration spokeswoman Dana Sandoval said Thursday. Hendricks was indicted in Ohio in alleged sexual misconduct in the Philippines, and American authorities said they want to know if there were victims in the U.S., too.
Hendricks, 77, is charged with engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places. If convicted in the U.S., he faces up to 30 years in prison.
An Ohio court had issued a warrant for the arrest of Hendricks, who has been living in the Philippines the bulk of the time for 37 years, Sandoval said, adding that the U.S. criminal case stemmed from complaints from Filipino minors who were allegedly victimized in the Philippines.
In court documents that were unsealed Thursday, five victims graphically described how they said Hendricks abused them repeatedly going back as far as 2009. One of them was just 7 years old when the abuse began, according to U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman. Some of the boys were residing with Hendricks and he would insist they take baths together and escalate the abuse from there, authorities said.
Five more boys came forward since the complaint was filed, Glassman said. Those boys are speaking with Philippines police.
"It's horrible, horrible, abusive conduct," Glassman said. "It's grooming children — young children — who are interested in being involved in church activities and taking those kids and sexually abusing them."
Steve Francis with Homeland Security Investigations said Hendricks has been active in the church for more than 60 years and was assigned to several locations in the Cincinnati area. Hendricks also returns to the U.S. annually for several months and has a residence in the Cincinnati area, according to Glassman.
A spokesman for the Franciscan Friars in Cincinnati said that Hendricks had been a brother in the Franciscan Order until he asked to be released from his vows in 1986. Hendricks is also listed on the Archdiocese of Cincinnati website as a missionary in Asia. However, the archdiocese edited its website after the charges were announced Thursday to state that Hendricks "is not, nor ever has been, a priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati." A Cincinnati Archdiocese spokesperson later added that Hendricks was one of about 75 missionaries from Southwest Ohio who receive some financial support from the archdiocese's mission office, but none of them work for or take direction from the archdiocese.
"The abuse of children or any vulnerable person is abhorrent and needs to be prosecuted," an archdiocese spokesperson said in a written statement. They urged any victims to contact investigators.
Francis called the case "very disturbing." He asked anyone with information about Hendricks's alleged conduct to call Homeland Security Investigations at 513-246-1461.
"We believe that there's a high probability that other children may have been impacted by his actions," he said.
The Cincinnati chapter of SNAP — Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests — issued a statement saying the archdiocese and Franciscans have a duty to seek out any victims who may have been abused by Hendricks.
There was no immediate reaction from the U.S. Embassy, Philippine Catholic church officials or Hendricks, who was flown to Manila and detained in an immigration cell. Glassman said authorities are working to determine how to return Hendricks to Ohio to answer the charges against him, but he is also facing charges in the Philippines.
"I can tell you that I want to prosecute this case," Glassman said.
Hendricks allegedly abused 10 victims, including some who came forward after the complaint was filed, according to Francis. He said four of the victims came forward at a recent town hall meeting in the Philippines.
Some victims were warned they would be locked up in jail if they told anyone about the abuses, according to an affidavit.
"Several of his victims have come forward with their statements," Sandoval said.
In a recorded conversation with one of the victims, Hendricks stated, "This will probably be the scenario is, there will be a meeting and then it will be decided, you know, what your parents want to do about anything. Do they want to try — want to press charges, whatever, see, but that's between them and the bishop. I have nothing to do with that. I just get the fallout afterwards," authorities wrote in a news release.
In the same conversation, Hendricks said, "They will decide, as you what your decision is, what you're going to do, whether there will be a case or not or whether, you know, a settlement, I don't know. But as far as after that, I don't know what's going to happen. I really will have to probably really resign, retire now."
The U.S. Embassy may revoke Hendrick's passport to help Philippine authorities immediately deport the priest, the immigration bureau said in a statement.
Hendricks is "a fugitive from justice that poses a risk to public safety and security," Sandoval said. "We will not allow sexual predators to prey on our children. People like him must be kicked out and banned from the Philippines."