A Catholic diocese in India has put children at risk by reinstating the priest who allegedly assaulted a sexual abuse survivor, according to an explosive lawsuit filed Tuesday in Minnesota federal court.
The suit filed by veteran sex abuse attorney Jeff Anderson on behalf of former New Yorker Megan Peterson, who recently moved to Wisconsin, names the Diocese of Ootacamund in southern India as the sole defendant.
“This is about protecting children in India from the callous antics of the bishop of Ootacamund,” said Peterson, a member of the advocacy group SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests).
Peterson, who grew up in Greenbush, Minn., says she was a devout 14-year-old altar server and church choir member when the Rev. Joseph Jeyapaul first raped her in his parish office.
The abuse continued for a year and some of the attacks took place in the church confessional.
Peterson told a school counselor about the abuse, and the counselor notified law enforcement officials. Jeyapaul fled to India in 2010 after he was charged with assaulting Peterson and another girl. The priest was arrested in 2012 by Interpol and extradited to the United States.
The priest pleaded guilty to sexual assault of the second girl in a plea bargain deal. The charges stemming from his alleged abuse of Peterson were dropped.
Jeyapaul was sentenced to a year in prison but was released shortly after the plea deal was reached because of time served while awaiting trial. Peterson sued the Diocese of Crookston, Minn., and won a $750,000 settlement in 2011.
Jeyapaul returned to India late last year and appealed for a return to the ministry after serving a suspension of less than a year. The diocese lifted Jeyapaul’s ban after getting approval from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine in January.
The Vatican’s embassy in Washington did not return requests from comment and the diocese did not respond to an email seeking comment.