Ohio priest faces charges of mo­lest­ing sev­eral boys

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Local News - By Ja­son Gu­tier­rez

An el­derly Amer­i­can priest has been ar­rested by U.S. Home­land Se­cu­rity agents on charges that he sex­u­ally as­saulted at least seven Filipino al­tar boys in the ru­ral cen­tral Philip­pines, where he has min­is­tered for decades.

The Rev. Kenneth Bernard Hen­dricks, 77, of Cincin­nati was ar­rested Wed­nes­day in the town of Naval, an im­pov­er­ished com­mu­nity in Bili­ran prov­ince, said Dana Krizia San­doval, a spokes­woman for the im­mi­gra­tion bureau of the Philip­pines.

“We re­ceived in­for­ma­tion from U.S. au­thor­i­ties re­gard­ing the al­leged sex­ual ex­ploita­tion of mul­ti­ple mi­nor Filipino boys by Hen­dricks,” Ms. San­doval said. “Sev­eral of his vic­tims have come for­ward with their state­ments.”

She said “at least seven chil­dren have come for­ward, but our sources es­ti­mate at least 50 cases have been un­re­ported.”

Op­er­a­tives from the im­mi­gra­tion bureau’s Fugi­tive Search Unit joined with the na­tional po­lice and Home­land Se­cu­rity agents in mak­ing the ar­rest, which shocked res­i­dents in the com­mu­nity of 50,000.

“Hen­dricks al­legedly sex­u­ally as­saulted a num­ber of boys liv­ing in his res­i­dence,” Ms. San­doval said, adding that the priest al­legedly told the boys that he would be im­pris­oned if au­thor­i­ties

learned of his be­hav­ior.

“It is shock­ing and ap­palling,” she added. “I am hor­ri­fied read­ing the charges against him. We will not al­low sex­ual preda­tors to prey on our chil­dren.”

The priest al­legedly or­dered the boys to take baths with him and mo­lested them ei­ther one on one or with other boys, she said.

The priest was the sub­ject of an ar­rest war­rant is­sued by a court in Ohio, Ms. San­doval added.

Fa­ther Hen­dricks has been liv­ing in the Philip­pines for 37 years, mostly in the same area, work­ing first as a Fran­cis­can brother be­fore he was or­dained into the priest­hood, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple who knew him.

“The al­le­ga­tions came as a sur­prise,” said Rolando Bor­ri­naga, a lo­cal his­to­rian, who once worked as an al­tar boy and knew the priest. “I was sad­dened be­cause all the time that I have known him he has been a good friend and priest.”

The Catholic Bish­ops’ Con­fer­ence of the Philip­pines said it was aware of the ar­rest, but it has not is­sued a state­ment.

But the ar­rest of Fa­ther Hen­dricks could be used by Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte as am­mu­ni­tion against the church.

Mr. Duterte, who says he was mo­lested by a priest when he was a child, seized on the ar­rest Wed­nes­day to re­sume his fre­quent at­tacks on the church. He as­serted that such abuses were com­mon in the re­li­gion.

“The most hyp­o­crit­i­cal in­sti­tu­tion in the en­tire Philip­pines is the Catholic Church and the pope knows that,” he told la­bor of­fi­cials dur­ing a speech at the pres­i­den­tial palace in the cap­i­tal, Manila, in which he as­sailed lo­cal bish­ops.

The Philip­pines is pre­dom­i­nantly Catholic and the church re­tains strong in­flu­ence in the coun­try. It has led anti-Duterte protests call­ing for a halt to his war on drugs, which has left thou­sands dead.

Mr. Duterte’s at­tacks on the church come as priests in the coun­try have come un­der at times violent at­tacks. At least three Catholic priests have been killed by un­known gun­men since early this year af­ter hav­ing spo­ken out against ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings car­ried out in the name of the drug war.

The coun­try’s Com­mis­sion on Hu­man Rights warned Thurs­day that the pres­i­dent’s state­ments “could em­bolden the vi­o­lence against priests and other re­li­gious per­sons.”

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