Priest Who Raped Altar Boy Seeks Jail Release

News: World News
by Jules Gomes  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  August 18, 2022   

Cardinal responds to cleric who sodomized two males in police custody

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MUMBAI, India (ChurchMilitant.com) - A homopredator priest from the archdiocese of Bombay is seeking release from jail months after a court sentenced him to life imprisonment for sodomizing an altar boy.

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Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Orlem, Malad

Father Lawrence Johnson, whom the victim's parents describe as a "habitual offender," will tell the Bombay high court on Monday that he was "falsely implicated" and has "nothing to do with the commission of the alleged offenses."

Sodomizing Prisoners

While police sources told Church Militant that Johnson sodomized two males in police custody when he was on trial, the victim's parents accused Bombay's archbishop, Cdl. Oswald Gracias, of covering up the priest's crimes in the parishes he served. 

Gracias, however, told Church Militant he could "categorically state that no earlier incident of sexual abuse by Fr. Johnson was ever brought to my attention" and that the "archdiocesan policy has always been zero tolerance."

The judge examining Johnson's bail application should still consider the two recent rape victims, even though the men raped by the priest were unwilling to testify for fear of reprisal, the jailer informed the police inspector and prosecutor. 

It was at the parish of Our Lady of Lourdes that most of the crimes were committed.

Church Militant obtained the 282-page application in which Johnson's high-profile defense lawyer Milind Dhande argues that the priest repeatedly pleaded "not guilty" to the charges. 

The trial court "wrongly scrutinized the evidence of witnesses and documents on record," and the special judge "has wrongly drawn inferences and, therefore, misled herself, thereby causing injustice to the appellant," Dhande claims. The victim's birth certificate is also being contested.

Fake Penitence

However, the 13-year-old victim's parents and parishioners testify how, when confronted with the rape, the priest "accepted his fault, knelt down and, with folded hands while acknowledging his criminal deeds, asked forgiveness, saying he will not repeat this again."


Michael Voris delves into the cover-up of the sodomized altar boy and other victims in Bombay
 

In December, the court found 57-year-old Johnson guilty of aggravated penetrative sexual assault and carnal intercourse against the order of nature," under the 2012 Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. 

Johnson first raped his victim in August 2015 while serving at Christ the King Church, Govandi, a suburb of Mumbai. The boy was admitted to the Shatabdi Hospital and then transferred to the intensive care unit at the government-run Kasturba Hospital. 

He will cut him into pieces if he discloses this to anyone.

The priest threatened that "he will cut him into pieces if he discloses this to anyone," the victim's parents stated in a letter to Cdl. Gracias. 

"On Nov. 27, almost three months later, the boys were at a church festival, and the priest asked the boy to take a box of decorations to his room. He followed the boy, locked the door and raped his victim," Vincentian brother Joseph Soares told Church Militant.

Episcopal Cover-Up?

Soares said that family members made several attempts to contact auxiliary bishops Dominic Savio Fernandes and John Rodrigues. Both did not even acknowledge their calls, and the parents went to see Cdl. Gracias on Nov. 30. 

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Bps. John Rodrigues, Allwyn D'Silva and 

Dominic Savio Fernandes

"We have been given to understand that Fr. Lawrence Johnson has also committed such criminal offenses earlier at the other parishes where he was placed. But the same was somehow concealed and covered up for reasons beyond our understanding," the parents emphasized in a letter to the cardinal. 

The priest earlier sodomized other boys at several suburban parishes, including Our Lady of Lourdes, Orlem; St. Anthony's Church, Malwani; St. Anthony's Church, Mankhurd; Our Lady of the Rosary, Goregaon; and Sacred Heart Church, Vashi. 

"There were reports of him preying on boys in almost all these parishes, but the abuse was always quickly hushed up, and Fr. Johnson was transferred," a diocesan source told Church Militant, noting that the priest was previously a driver to auxiliary bishop Allwyn D'Silva, who most likely "put in a good word" for the predator priest.

There were reports of him preying on boys in almost all these parishes.

"It was at the parish of Our Lady of Lourdes in Orlem that most of the crimes were committed," she noted, explaining that Johnson was chaplain to Tamil-speaking Catholics from underprivileged backgrounds.

Church Militant contacted the current parish priest, Fr. Michael Pinto, asking if he had extended pastoral care to the victims and was seeking justice on their behalf. Pinto, who has gained notoriety for organizing Iftar meals for Muslims during Ramadan, did not respond. 

Cardinal Denounces Abuse

Cardinal Gracias told Church Militant on Thursday: 

We respect the decision of the court. I am totally against exposing our children to any danger. Our children's safety is paramount. We have always tried to ensure that our children have a safe atmosphere in all Church institutions. 

This is a priority for me. It is dear to my heart. I have spoken to my clergy about it more than once. I have spoken to the bishops of India more than once. I have spoken to the bishops of Asia about it. 

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Johnson is currently incarcerated in Nashik Central Jail

The priest, who had contracted syphilis (a sexually transmitted disease), passed the infection to the boy (who is now 19 and continues to suffer from it), a hospital source told Church Militant.

"Cardinal Gracias has thus far failed to respond to requests for compensation," advocate Charmaine Bocarro, who has been fighting pro bono for the victim, told Church Militant. 

Bocarro, a practicing Catholic, said she also approached India's papal nuncio Abp. Leopoldo Girelli, but there was "not even a whisper" in response. 

Several individuals have expressed outrage over the fact that the cardinal spent a sum of approximately 10 million rupees in paying for a celebrity lawyer to defend the priest. 

Meanwhile, in a desperate attempt to overturn his conviction, Johnson is also claiming both he and the victim were absent from the church premises during the time of the sexual assault.

Johnson's highly paid lawyer is also arguing that the overwhelming medical evidence has been presented as a "belated attempt" and the "child witness is prone to tutoring by his parents and the lady advocate." 

Church Militant asked Cdl. Gracias why he had chosen to remain silent when a priest known to be a serial offender was seeking release from prison. Gracias did not respond as of press time.

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