He was cleared of charges against him — but hasn’t had much luck having his reputation cleared, as well.
In 2005, as the Catholic clergy sex abuse crisis continued to grab headlines all over America, even the St. Raphael-Holy Angels parish was not immune to scandal.
One of their own priests was accused of improperly touching a young girl.
Among parishioners, there was anger, confusion, despair. A tragedy playing out in communities across the country had now spread to a close-knit parish in Hamilton.
“No one ever questioned anything about it, they just knew this man and knew it was wrong,” parishioner Frank Hamilton said. “The support and the people that came out — you’re talking a whole church community behind him.”
Supporters signed petitions, phoned the Trenton diocese and had fundraisers for Selvaraj’s legal defense.That was six years ago. Today, their faith in Selvaraj remains as unwavering as ever.
It’s support that Selvaraj, 51, has been forced to lean on since he was first accused in 2005 and stripped of his priestly faculties in the Diocese of Trenton. Without a job or income, he has depended on financial support from parishioners, who have raised tens of thousands of dollars for his legal and living expenses.
A guest priest originally from India, Selvaraj was ordered back to his native country by then-Bishop John M. Smith. In a recent ruling the Vatican sided with the diocese, saying it handled Selvaraj’s case properly. Priests are expected to defer to and obey the decisions of their bishop.
Selvaraj has steadfastly refused to leave, though, and has spent the last six years on a crusade to clear the name and reputation he says was smeared.
How can he move on to a new job or parish after being tarred as an abuser, a molester, he asks?
“For nothing, I’m being crucified and it’s dragged on for six years,” he said. “It bothers me very much. I gave my life to this church and they don’t even have the conscience to restore my good name and dignity.”
Read about the accusation and what happened here.