Pope Francis defrocks former Rapid City priest

By Arielle Zionts
Rapid City Journal
November 12, 2020

Pope Francis has defrocked, or laicized, a former Rapid City priest convicted of child sexual abuse.

The Pope laicized John Praveen on March 26, the West River Catholic reported in its September issue.

“This means that John Praveen has been removed from the clerical state and cannot function or present himself as a priest,” the announcement says.

The 40-year-old was sentenced in March 2019 to six years in prison after admitting to sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl inside the Rapid City cathedral.

Praveen, who is from Hyderabad, India, joined the Diocese of Rapid City for a 10-year assignment in December 2017. The diocese sponsored his work visa.

Praveen first worked in Eagle Butte on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe reservation and was transferred to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in June 2018. He worked at the cathedral until he was arrested and charged on Oct. 2, 2018.

Former Bishop Robert Gruss suspended Praveen after his arrest. A suspension means a priest can no longer wear clerical attire, has no priestly duties, and lives a life of prayer and penance under the supervision of a bishop, Gruss previously explained to the Journal.

Laicization is the most strict punishment. The process is conducted by the Vatican and means while technically still a priest, the priest lives his life as a lay person, Gruss said.

Before the pope's announcement it was unclear what would happen to Praveen once he returned to India. 

Praveen, who is incarcerated at the Mike Durfee State Prison in Springfield, has an initial parole date of July 3, 2021, according to the Department of Corrections.

If the parole board grants parole it could ask U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to immediately deport Praveen or first have him first serve parole in any state, the sentencing judge said.

ICE has had an administrative arrest warrant and immigration detainer on Praveen since February 2019, the agency told the Journal last year. A detainer means ICE has asked local law enforcement to notify the agency before Praveen is released and hold him until ICE can take him into its custody. ICE may then decide to deport him.

Father Michel Mulloy, another Rapid City priest, is currently being investigated by The South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation after being accused of sexually abusing a child in Faith in the early 1980s, according to the Meade County state’s attorney.

Mulloy led the diocese after Gruss was reassigned and was set to become Bishop of Duluth before the allegation was publicized in early September. He is suspended during the investigation, according to Bishop Peter Muhich.



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