US Diocese removes Kerala priest following sexual harassment allegation

A Kerala priest working with Catholic Diocese of Lansing in Michigan of the United States of America has been sacked from the facility after the church received complaints of sexual harassment against him.

Rev. Mathew Joseph, a priest of the Missionary Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament of Kerala has been sent back to India on August 18, 2018, after serving one month as a parochial vicar for St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Fenton, said the statement issued by the Catholic Diocese of Lansing.

“He was dismissed due to several complaints about his ministry, including a credible allegation of sexual harassment of an adult female,” the statement reads.

The Rev. Robert Copeland, the pastor of St. John spoke about the issue during a prayer meeting this weekend at the church. He further added that they are in contact with the lady who has made the allegations. “She is committed to challenging the Diocese and the parish to have higher standards and learning from this incident,” said Rev.Copeland.

Copeland said that Rev. Joseph had served with the Diocese of Saginaw for one year and came to Fenton with a good recommendation and was serving at the St. John church on a trial basis. Copeland said that Joseph had argued that the sexual harassment charges against him were a “miscommunication”. The church decided to send him back as soon as they found that “it wasn’t a misunderstanding”, said Copeland.

Michael Diebold, director of communications for the Diocese of Lansing, said the complaints made against priest Mathew Joseph were the reasons to send him back to India.

The church in its statement issued on October 25th, two months after Joseph was sent to India, has now decided to attach emails and phone numbers for a hotline for victims who have been abused or victimized by Joseph or someone representing the Catholic Church.

“We like to protect our brother priest, but we want to protect our people and our parish even more,” Copeland said.

It is notable here that in a similar incident earlier, the Diocese of Oooty had to face severe criticism internationally after reports had emerged that they had reinstated their priest Father Jeyapul. Jeyapul was convicted by a US court and had served prison time for raping a minor. The victim, a US citizen who was 15 at the time of her rape, had decided to sue the diocese.

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