Thursday, July 19, 2012

Indian Priest Jailed in Ocean County

Indian priest arrested in US for sex crimes

Authorities said the priest is now lodged in Ocean County Jail.

New Jersey: Prosecutors in the United States have charged a Benedictine priest 
from India with two sex crimes, one against a minor.
However, several of his parishioners at Church of the Visitation in Brick Township, 
New Jersey, have questioned the charges.
Police arrested Fr. Marukudiyil C. Velan, 64, known to the parishioners as 
"Father Chris," on Saturday with criminal sexual contact and endangering the 
welfare of a child.
They acted on a complain from a woman that the priest had made sexual contact 
with her and her minor daughter the same day. She told investigators that the 
priest had befriended her family before the incident.
Fr. Velan has been working at the parish under Trenton diocese as a visiting 
priest since 2001. A garden, named for Father Chris in the back of the church's yard, 
was empty Tuesday afternoon, a day after his arrest became publicly known.
Authorities said the priest is now lodged in Ocean County Jail.
The diocese Monday said it has withdrawn Fr. Velan's ministry privileges 
while the investigation continues. It has offered to cooperate with the process 
and made available its official who coordinates assistance to victims of clerical 
sexual abuse.
The prosecutors have not released the names of the alleged victims.
David Clohessy, spokesperson of the Survivors' Network of Those Abused 
by Priests (SNAP), commended the woman for “acting responsibly and promptly" 
in reporting the case.
Some people took issue with SNAP and what they see as the organization's 
tendency to judge an accused priest before he is indicted or brought to trial.
"Some people jump immediately to the conclusion of guilt, and some people 
automatically go the other way," said David F. Pierre, Jr., a journalist based in 
New England who has chronicled the clerical abuse scandals on his website, 
The Media Report.
"People do need to know that there are false allegations out there. We hear so 
much about Catholic priest abuse that people tend to jump to conclusions."
Some of Fr. Velan’s parishioners too sounded skeptical about the charges.
"Please don't let this be another witchhunt," pleaded Donna Smith, a parishioner, 
who said the priest had earlier counseled her alone and she found nothing wrong 
in his behavior.
Several parishioners described how the priest dropped off food at the homes of those 
who were hungry, prayed with sick relatives at the hospital late at night, and worked 
with Mother Teresa in his native India before coming to the United States.
A woman who only gave her name as "Adrienne" said the priest had counseled her 
to get over her mother’s death. "If it weren’t [for] his words of comfort 
I wouldn't have made it through," she said.
Another parishioner, Anna Jones, said the priest was available for help at any time 
of the day. "You could call him at 3 a.m. for a blessing and he would be there,” she said.
Pierre said what makes Fr. Velan’s case “so unusual” is that it is so recent. Almost 
all other cases priests got arrested for things they did years ago, usually decades ago.
"This case could be all true, we don't know," he said. "But the correct approach is a 
cautious approach," he added.
The accused priest is a member of the Camaldolese Congregation of the Order 
of St. Benedict. He joined Trenton diocese after service in India, Australia and California.

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