Over 300 priests from six Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania, USA have been accused of sexually abusing thousands of children, a report by a grand jury said. Among them is a Bengaluru priest, Father Gabriel Patil, a member of the Barnabite religious order.
Fr Gabriel Patil has been accused of sexually abusing five boys in the late 1970s and the early 1980s, when the survivors were between seven and nine years of age. He was then serving at the Bethlehem Catholic High School in Pennsylvania.
“The victim reported that he and the four other known victims were living near the high school at the time. Patil would invite the boys into his residence at the high school and play hide and seek with the boys. While playing hide and seek Patil would have the boys sit on his lap,” the grand jury report says.
“One of the victims also reported that Patil had the victim undress in his presence. Patil leered at the victim as the victim tried on new clothes Patil had bought for the victim,” the report added.
The abuse reportedly went on for two years. The abuse was initially reported in 2003 to the diocese of Allentown, and lawsuits were subsequently filed. It was later dismissed since the statutory limits had expired.
Over the years, activists have voiced concerns about whether Patil would be allowed to come back to India and exercise priesthood.
Speaking to TNM, Father Benny from the Barnabite Vidyabhavan in Bengaluru said that Gabriel Patil is currently in Italy, and has come to India a few times as a tourist.
“Two years back when he arrived at the airport, the Indian government did not permit him to be in India. So, he was sent back to Italy,” Fr Benny said. They were not given any more details except for being informed by Patil that he was not allowed to leave the airport, Fr Benny said.
“For four years, he used to come and go,” says Fr Benny when asked about the time Patil was in India. “He was here after 2011 to 2015 in between,” he added.