The 55-year-old Father Vincent Pereira of Pune in western India has been accused of sex abuse many times since 2014
India's Virginia Saldanha (center) who serves as secretary of the Indian Women Theologians Forum and Ecclesia of Women in Asia, takes part in a protest by victims of clergy sexual abuse at the Piazza del Popolo in Rome on Feb. 23, 2019. (Photo: AFP/ UCA files)
An Indian Catholic priest already under suspension following sex abuse complaints has fresh charges of sexual assault being lodged against him by a minor boy and his father, sparking calls for his dismissal from the priesthood.
Father Vincent Pereira, 55, was originally suspended from public priestly ministries after police arrested him in September 2018 for sexually assaulting a teenage boy in a school where he was the principal. Released on bail in March 2020, he now lives in the pastoral center of the Pune diocese in western India.
“He should be dismissed from priesthood forthwith because he attacked my son and even dared to violate me,” says Mathew Kuriokose, 55, a Catholic from Pune.
Kuriokose told UCA News on Sept. 20 that Father Pereira assaulted his 15-year-old son while visiting his home last year and the family complained to Father Wilfred Fernandes, director of Nav Sadhana Pastoral Center of the diocese, in December 2021.
Father Fernandes confirmed to UCA News that he had received the “shocking information” and informed Bishop Thomas Dabre of Pune on Jan. 23.
Father Pereira, who became friendly with the family, first attacked the boy in their home on Dec. 4, 2021.
Kuriokose alleged prior to this the priest made sexual advances on him in May 2021.
He made another attempt on him in August 2021 and Kuriokose said he slapped the priest. The priest apologized and promised the "mistake" will not be repeated.
Kuriokose alleged that even in November 2021, when his family was on their way to their native state of Kerala, the priest came to see them off at the Pune train station and asked indecent questions to his son.
The family claimed to have met Bishop Dabre twice in December 2021 and complained against the priest.
“We are frustrated that the bishop has not taken punitive action against the priest,” the father said.
Kuriokose finally registered a complaint with the police on April 26 this year and Father Pereira was summoned to the police station. He was let off after submitting a written undertaking that he will not indulge in such behavior and given a stern warning, said a police officer.
“We are investigating the case while the priest is out on a bail obtained from the Bombay High Court,” the officer said.
Bishop Dabre told UCA News that he has taken adequate steps against Father Pereira.
“We have also informed the police and told the victim’s family to file a police complaint. We have also reported the matter to the Vatican and are following its guidelines in the case,” the prelate said.
The bishop said the priest remains isolated and banned from public pastoral ministries, and meeting people.
When asked why no action was taken on the complaints of Kuriakose, Bishop Dabre said that the case is already being investigated by the police.
“Let the law take its own course,” Bishop Dabre said, adding that he formed a committee of priests, including some canonists, to study the case and interview the victims and the offender.
Since the accused priest is barred from communicating with the public, UCA News could not contact him for comments.
The sex abuse allegation against Father Periera dates back to 2014 when he was sacked from the post of principal at church-run St Joseph High School in Solapur city after an internal inquiry found him guilty of sexually abusing a teenage student.
A church official from Pune Diocese said the bishop has suspended the priest for five years, which will come to an end around November 2023.
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