In Troubling Abuse Case, Catholics Must Act
By David Clohessy
January 12, 2019
This is a heartfelt appeal to Sedalia area Catholics and citizens who have information or suspicions about a priest who was expelled by mid-Missouri church officials and accused of sexually inappropriate actions with a girl.
While his church supervisors claim he’s no threat to kids, we are highly skeptical.
Following a familiar pattern in these cases, since the allegations against Fr. Deusdedit Mulokozi (or Fr. Deo, as he’s known) were reported to Sedalia law enforcement, he’s been moved three times.
First, he was sent to Kansas City, then to a Catholic treatment center in Texas and then to Tanzania where he is now working among the even more vulnerable people: unsuspecting Catholics in a developing nation with a less vigorous criminal system and an even more secretive church hierarchy.
To be fair, in our criminal justice system, everyone’s entitled to be presumed innocent. But to be honest and prudent, reasonable people should not assume Fr. Deo is innocent.
First, even Catholic officials admit that very few allegations of sexual misconduct against priests are false. A Boston-based research and archive group, BishopAccountability, says that fewer than 2 percent of sexual abuse allegations appear to be false. And a report commissioned by U.S. bishops and conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice concluded that 2.5 percent are false.
Second, child sex cases are notoriously hard to investigate and the bar for prosecution is very high. And typically, accused clerics get top notch defense lawyers and often evade guilt through shrewd tactics and technicalities. The fact that he hasn’t been criminally charged should not reassure anyone.
Third, there’s a long-standing and intense shortage of priests and seminarians. That puts tons of pressure on bishops to hang onto clerics, even if they’re accused of wrongdoing. In spite of this, the bishop who oversees the Sedalia area expelled Fr. Deo from this entire diocese.
For these reasons and others, we think it’s naive and reckless to assume that Fr. Deo is innocent. While there’s evidently not sufficient proof to arrest him right now, there is sufficient reason to err on the side of safeguarding the innocent.
So at the risk of being blunt, we in SNAP believe you should not sit silently back and let your church officials continue doing what they’ve done for decades: claim they’ve done an internal “investigation,” shuffle an alleged predator elsewhere (where no one knows he’s been accused) and continue business as usual.
You have a moral and civic duty to help warn others about Fr. Deo and protect others from him. If you don’t, you’re morally culpable if or when Fr. Deo hurts an African child.
The Sedalia Democrat’s excellent reporting on this troubling situation reveals that parish meetings were held about the allegation against Fr. Deo. But that’s apparently as far as it went.
Did none of you think the public should be informed? Predator priests don’t just hurt local kids or Catholic kids. Were none of you upset that no priest or church official made a public appeal to other potential victims, witnesses or whistleblowers to come forward? Did it not cross your minds that “Hey, this is how bishops have dealt with abuse for ages – by holding quiet, internal meetings and making sure that the wide community doesn’t hear about abuse charges?”
Yes, everyone’s entitled to be presumed innocent. But when there’s a decades-old shortage of priests and one of them is expelled from a diocese, sent to treatment and then transferred overseas, doesn’t that fail the basic “smell test?”
Please search your consciences. Whatever you may know or suspect, however seemingly insignificant, should be reported to police or other independent sources like our group. Your actions may spare a boy or girl from a lifetime of suffering.
David Clohessy is the St. Louis volunteer leader of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and the group’s former longtime national director. He can be reached at 314-566-9790 or email@example.com