At a time when the Catholic church is under scrutiny for sexual abuse by clergymen, an Indian priest has been arrested by the Rapid City police in South Dakota on charges of sexual contact with a minor.
Thirty eight year old Fr John Praveen Kumar Itukulapati served at the Holy Spirit Father congregation in Telangana before being deputed to serve abroad for 10 years in November 2017. Though he began his deputation at the All Saints Church in Eagle Butte in South Dakota, he was shifted to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Rapid City in June as the Parochial Vicar.
An investigation conducted by the Rapid City Police and the Pennington County Sheriffâ€™s Office (PCSO) began on September 30, according to reports, after the 16-year-old survivor came forward with a complaint. As per the survivorâ€™s account, the priest had come into sexual contact with the child twice. According to local media reports from the US, this offence is a Class 3 felony which could lead to the imprisonment of the priest for 15 years and/or a fine of $30,000 every time the offence is committed.
The Rapid City Police Department, in its Facebook page, said that this is an ongoing and a â€˜high priority investigationâ€™.
This arrest comes days after another similar incident in the Church. Bishop Franco Mulakkal, former Bishop of the Jalandhar Diocese, was arrested by the Kerala police on September 21 on rape charges made by a nun. According to the nun, Bishop Franco Mulakkal had sexually abused her multiple times between 2014 and 2016 in the Kuruvilangad convent in Kerala.
In 2015, a Minnesota court convicted an Indian-origin priest, Joseph Jeyapaul, for sexually assaulting minors during his stint in the US. He served as a priest in Crookston city in Minnesota in 2004-05 and was arrested in India in 2012. He was extradited to the US on charges of secual abuse and was convicted by the court. He was deported after his sentence and the Catholic church, with the Popeâ€™s permission lifted the suspension that was placed on him. He continues to work for the Ooty diocese.