A case of clerical child rape

by Fr. Shay Cullen

| Photo by Alan via Wikimedia Commons

The many incidents of child sexual abuse by clerics have shamed thousands of good bishops and priests who have been justly angered by the rampant and tolerated child sexual abuse of their fellow pedophile priests and some bishops. They feel helpless when their bishop protects the pedophile priest and calls him “his son.” they hunger for justice for the victims and wish to forgive their vocation and blemished priesthood.

Church law now says every act of sexual abuse against a child is a heinous civil law crime and a violation of church law. (www.preda.org) Pope Francis has scolded bishops for covering up child abuse cases among their priests instead of reaching out to help the victims find therapy, healing, and justice. Instead, they try to buy off the child victim and the family with money and promises. This happened in Cagayan province, Northern Philippines, in 2022, outlined below.

Pope Francis says child abuse by a cleric is “a profound wound that cries out for healing.” The latest wound that a child is suffering (call her Angelica, not her real name) happened when she was 15. She complained of being raped and sexually assaulted many times by a priest Karole Reward Ubina Israel, 29, assistant parish priest in the Parish of St. Vincent Ferrer in Solana, Cagayan.

According to court records, the Catholic priest of the Diocese of Tuguegarao was arrested in the act of committing a crime of child seduction and abuse on October 18, 2022, in a rescue and arrest operation planned and approved by Attorney Hector Eduard Geologo, regional director of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Cagayan Valley. The rescue and arrest were made by NBI Agent Attorney Jonimar Tongdo and his team with the cooperation of the child’s parents.

Angelica, now 16, was a member of the parish youth group helping in the church. Father Israel was their director with moral ascendancy and authority over them, and they trusted him. Angelica, then 15 years old, was invited by Karole Israel on February 8 for dinner. According to her, he blindfolded her and drove to Aparri, Cagayan. At 2 a.m. the following day, when they arrived back in Solana, he started molesting her, touching her private parts, and kissing her. She was shocked and got out of the car and ran home. She was frightened and afraid to tell her parents lest they would not believe her and blame her for lying and making severe accusations against an influential member of the clergy who are like Gods in the rural towns.

According to the Resolution of the prosecutor, the priest used his influence and authority and, through texting, demanded Angelica to meet him again for him to apologize for what happened. When she went to the church, he pushed her into the car and drove to the King’s Man Hotel in Tuguegarao City, where he raped her. He secretly took videos of the sexual intercourse on his cell phone, sent them to her, and threatened to expose them on social media if she would tell anyone or if she refused to obey his commands and have sex with him. He made the child his sex slave. He used vile language when threatening to destroy her and her family if she told anyone. He raped her many more times, even on Holy Thursday, in different places- in the Kings Man hotel, car, school, and memorial park.

“The carefully crafted and detailed Resolution of the prosecutor pointed out, among many other things, that sexual acts against the will of a vulnerable child under the moral ascendancy of the priest, even if they were so-called “lovers,” which they were not, are still heinous crimes of child rape.”

Angelica was traumatized by the fear of punishment, exposure, and disgrace. She was depressed and attempted to kill herself three times but hid her pain and suffering. Angelica’s teachers, John Michael Bassig and Maria Christina de Asis, got a message from a friend of Angelica saying she was depressed and suicidal. They talked with her, and Angelica found the courage to finally overcome fear and threats and told her teachers how the priest Karole Israel had molested, raped, and blackmailed her. Then, they helped her tell her parents.

They immediately contacted the NBI and planned a meeting between Angelica and the cleric, and he was arrested in his car as he attempted to abuse Angelica again. He was held in detention after the inquest proceedings. He surrendered his cell phone, and there is video evidence of the blackmail and sexual abuse, and threats. In addition, there are sworn statements, six clips of sex videos, recorded audio calls, and screenshots of conversations whereby the accused demanded the child to go with him. These were filed with a formal complaint to Prosecutor Kathleen Joy Ruiz Zuniega, who wisely and judicially weighed the evidence, found probable cause, and sent it to the Court. Israel was released from jail when granted bail of 183,000 pesos.

The second set of alleged charges, multiple rape and sexual assault and video voyeurism- eighteen in all were made by regular filing. These charges of qualified rape and multiple counts of rape and sexual assault are the content of the powerfully detailed Resolution of Asst. City Prosecutor Kristine R. Marallag-Ave and approved by City Prosecutor Jessie B. Usita on December 27, 2022. The rape charges are non-bailable.

In his counter affidavit, the defendant, Karole Reward Israel, denied all the charges and insisted that he and the child were lovers. She was a happy, cheerful child; it was sex with consent. He also asked the prosecutor to disallow the video evidence. That request was denied. The carefully crafted and detailed Resolution of the prosecutor pointed out, among many other things, that sexual acts against the will of a vulnerable child under the moral ascendancy of the priest, even if they were so-called “lovers,” which they were not, are still heinous crimes of child rape. The recorded voice message of the priest to the victim, where he was repeatedly cursing her in vile, abusive language, shows she was in his total control.

The acts were done under threats, blackmail, and intimidation, so to her credit, prosecutor Kristine R. Marallag-Ave resolved that there is probable cause and will likely elevate the information to the Court. We now await the trial’s opening, where the child victim will give testimony and other witnesses.

Since then, Father Rino Guaring, most likely on behalf of the Diocese of Tuguegarao and relatives of Father Israel, went to the house of Angelica and offered to settle the case out of Court and promised money and a college education if she withdrew her complaints. The victim and her family refused and demanded justice. The parents then wrote to the Preda Foundation, asking for help and assistance.

Readers of an abused child may contact me at 09228768621 or shaycullen@gmail.com confidentially and share essential information such as the victim’s name, age, and whereabouts.

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