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Timor Leste

SVD denies conspiracy in sex abuse case of defrocked Timor-Leste priest

Congregation official says it stood by victims as Richard Daschbach betrayed their trust, the donors and his superiors

SVD denies conspiracy in sex abuse case of defrocked Timor-Leste priest

Richard Daschbach, the defrocked Divine Word priest accused of sexually abusing minors, at the Oecusse district court in Timor-Leste on Feb. 22. (Photo: YouTube)

A Society of the Divine Word (SVD) official has denied allegations of “conspiracy” and “false accusations” against Richard Daschbach, who was dismissed from the priesthood for sexual abuse committed in Timor-Leste.

Father Jose Nicolas Espinosa, the congregation’s general secretary and spokesperson based in Rome, said “the investigation process against Daschbach, which included his self-denunciation, proved that the accusations of sexual abuse of minors were true.”

Supporters of the 84-year-old American have alleged that the accusations that led to his dismissal from the priesthood by the Vatican in November 2018 were “false” and that he was a “victim of a conspiracy.”

“His dismissal from the congregation and the clerical state proves that the SVD acted fast and adequately to ensure the ecclesiastical penalty for Mr. Daschbach,” Father Espinosa said in an interview published by Timor-Leste’s Tempo Timor news portal on Aug. 19.

He denied allegations that Daschbach’s dismissal was caused by SVD priests in Timor-Leste wanting to grab the land and the money of Topu Honis, the shelter in the mountains of Kutet founded by Daschbach in 1993 where he is suspected to have committed the sexual abuse of minors.

“The land and money belong to Topu Honis. Therefore, the SVD cannot by any means get hold of the land and the money of Topu Honis,” Father Espinosa said.

We believe that to help heal the victims’ wounds and to prevent similar crimes, a fair and just trial is necessary

“Since the start, SVD has handled the case in keeping with the Church’s protocol on issues of sexual abuse.”

Father Espinosa detailed the series of processes followed before dismissing Daschbach after he “admitted the accusations” and said they were “100 percent true.”

He said Daschbach had “betrayed the victims’ trust, the donors and the SVD superiors” and added that “SVD has always stood by the victims.”

He appealed to the people of Timor-Leste to support the civil authorities in the legal process.

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“We believe that to help heal the victims’ wounds and to prevent similar crimes, a fair and just trial is necessary,” Fathr Espinosa said.

Daschbach is charged with abusing young girls, possessing child pornography and domestic violence. He faces up to 20 years in prison. He is also wanted in the US for an alleged case of wire fraud.

The trial in Timor-Leste began in February but was postponed several times with Daschbach citing Covid-19 restrictions as an excuse to not appear in court. He continues to enjoy support in the Catholic-majority country where many still consider him a hero for helping in the fight for independence from Indonesia.

His supporters have taken to social media to launch attacks on his alleged victims and those who support them, including the public prosecutor and non-government organizations.

On Aug. 18, police arrested Agustinho Caet, one of his supporters, for his aggressive campaign against alleged victims and their supporters.

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