Shortly after his arrival in the US from India, Catholic priest Fr Jose Palimattom, above, was arrested for showing dozens of pictures of naked young males to a 14-year-old teen.
A report last year said that the Diocese of Palm Beach was instrumental in bringing the pervert to the attention of the police. The diocese said in a statement:
The Diocese of Palm Beach immediately contacted authorities and cooperated in the investigation conducted by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. This cooperation resulted in the arrest of Father Palimattom.
If this were true, the diocese is to be commended.
But the truth, according to this report, is that the priest was reported to the police not by the diocese but by a whistle-blowing colleague, Fr John A Gallagher, above, who now claims that he is being punished for involving the police instead of following Church orders to put Palimattom on a plane back to India.
Gallagher, 48, originally from Strabane in Co Tyrone, says that he has been demoted, that the locks on his parochial house were changed and he was placed on medical leave by his bishop in the diocese.
The Irish priest says that on the night he found out about Palimattom, who had been at the parish of the Holy Name of Jesus Christ in West Palm Beach for just one month, was told by a Florida Church official:
We need to make him go away, put on a plane.
He had been instructed to send Palimattom to Bangalore. Gallagher was also by the same official:
Do not keep written notes.
After the priest was arrested and his bail set at $10,000, the Catholic Church dealt with the victim’s family through lawyers and an out-of-court settlement was made.
Palimattom, a priest of the Franciscan Province of St Thomas the Apostle in India, was then sent back to India to an undisclosed location.
Instead of following the Church’s immediate instruction to “make him go away”, Gallagher interviewed Palimattom along with one of his parishioners, a retired police officer. The parishioner took notes at the meeting.
Palimattom admitted to showing nude pictures of boys to the teen. He also admitted that he had sexually assaulted boys in India before arriving in the US. A few hours later he repeated this confession to detectives from the specialist unit of the West Palm Beach Police.
The diocese then released a statement saying that, despite a prior investigation, they had no knowledge of Palimattom’s previous assaults in India.
As part of its due diligence, the diocese completed a background screening which also included a screening in India, and received a Certificate of Aptitude from the Minister Provincial in India. During this background process, no prior misconduct was revealed.
Palimattom said that the prior assaults were not on record as they had not been reported to police.
It was also claimed by the media that Palimattom was under orders from the Church to avoid being in the company of minors without other adults in attendance.
Having reported Palimattom’s actions to the police, and despite the fact that he was following the Catholic Church’s own rules, it was made clear to Gallagher that his actions were not approved of.
It was made clear to me that what I had done (co-operating with the police) wasn’t what I should have done.
It was a very distressing time for me and the parish. But we had a special Mass and I told the congregation what had happened. I told them it was now in the hands of the rightful authorities, the police … I did the right thing.
In late April 2015 Gallagher was called to meet with the Bishop of Palm Beach, Gerald Barbarito. Three other Church officials were in attendance. Gallagher was in line to be promoted and was surprised to receive a phone call the day after their meeting telling him he was being demoted.
The priest said:
No reason was given. I asked if I could meet with him again and this was refused. He said if I didn’t wish to be demoted and moved to another parish, I should leave the priesthood.
The diocese has denied Gallagher’s assertions, calling them:
An inaccurate representation of the facts.
Hat tip: Peter Sykes