Catholic Church under fire for rehabilitating convicted Indian priest

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VATICAN CITY (RNS) The Catholic Church is under fire for revoking the suspension of a priest in India, despite his previous extradition to the United States and conviction for sexual abuse.

Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul, 61, was suspended by the southern Indian diocese of Ooty in 2010 and later turned over to the U.S. justice system. He was found guilty of abusing a girl between 2004 and 2005 while working as a priest in the Diocese of Crookston in Minnesota.

Despite the conviction, the Vatican lifted his suspension last month, on advice from an Indian bishop, news agency AFP reported on Wednesday (Feb. 17).

Attorneys Jeff Anderson, left, and Mike Finnegan, attorneys for the accusers, discuss correspondence between a Minnesota bishop and the Vatican relating to a criminal charge against Catholic priest Father Joseph Jeyapaul for two counts of criminal sexual conduct in the United States in 2004 and 2005, from their law office in St. Paul, Minnesota, on April 5, 2010. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Eric Miller

Jeff Anderson, left, and Mike Finnegan, attorneys for the accusers, discuss correspondence between a Minnesota bishop and the Vatican relating to a criminal charge against Catholic priest Joseph Jeyapaul on two counts of criminal sexual conduct in the United States in 2004 and 2005, from their law office in St. Paul, Minn., on April 5, 2010. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Eric Miller

Ranjana Kumari, director of the Centre for Social Research, an advocacy group for the rights of women and girls, called the move “totally unacceptable.”

“The lifting of the suspension amounts to the Church condoning his actions,” Kumari reportedly said.

A spokesman for the Ooty Diocese, Sebastian Selvanathan, told AFP that despite the lifting of the suspension Jeyapaul would not return to active service.

The case has also been highlighted by the U.S.-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, which published an article online asking: “Why has south India’s Catholic Church re-inducted a convicted child molester priest.”

Jeyapaul was sentenced to a year in jail for assaulting a 16-year-old girl, although he was subsequently released and deported last year owing to time already served. A second woman who said she was abused by Jeyapaul as a girl dropped the charges.

(Rosie Scammell covers the Vatican for RNS)

  • William Bockstael

    Did you hear that Francis?

  • Pingback: Catholic Church under fire for rehabilitating convicted Indian priest | Christian News Agency()

  • Judy Jones

    Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul should never be allowed to minister again. He is a convicted criminal and he should never have his priestly power again..and he should never be allowed near children. Let’s hope that anyone who may have knowledge or may have been harmed by Jeyapaul, will find the courage to come forward and contact law enforcement no matter how long ago it happened.
    Silence only hurts, and by speaking up there is a chance for healing, exposing the truth, and therefore protecting others.
    Judy Jones, SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) 636-433-2511. snapjudy@gmail.com,

  • Betty Clermont

    Jeyapaul’s suspension was lifted on the advice of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. On Jan. 29, Pope Francis thanked the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith headed by German Cardinal Müller for “its efforts and responsibility” in dealing with cases of child sex abuse by clergy. Pope Francis promoted Müller to cardinal in October 2013 although Müller’s appointment when he was bishop of Fr. Peter Kramer, an already-convicted child sex abuser, as pastor in Regensberg, was already well-known.

  • Debbo

    This type of behavior sickens me. I agree with other commenters. He should not be reinstated under any conditions and she not receive a pension or any other financial support. Let him earn a living in circumstances that are tightly monitored. The RCC should pay for the monitoring and any other costs that clerical scum has incurred or will in the future.