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Fiji Time: 1:40 AM on Friday 19 September

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Priest faces rape probe

Margaret Wise And Felix Chaudhary
Friday, March 01, 2013

SCANDAL is threatening the Catholic Church in Fiji as police confirmed the questioning of a priest in connection to allegations of rape by multiple victims.

It all began when a complaint of an alleged rape incident was lodged at a police station in the Western Division last Saturday.

Police said investigations established there were more than one victim and since then "other victims have come forward".

"I can confirm that a Catholic priest has been questioned and is the prime suspect in a series of alleged rape cases," said Naina Ragigia, the west media police spokeswoman.

"After the initial report was received on Saturday and after investigations had begun, it was established that there were more than just one victim. Other victims have come forward and investigations are continuing before charges are laid."

Archbishop elect Father Peter Loy Chong said yesterday he was aware of the incident and has spoken to the priest concerned.

He said the church would let the law take its course but emphasised that sex abuse involving the clergy would not be condoned.

"We can't hide it. We don't want to hide it. Rape is an intrinsically evil act. If someone does wrong then they should be prepared to face the consequences," he said.

Father Chong said the Fiji Catholic church had learnt from history whereby the church had not dealt effectively with the priests involved in sexual abuse.

"We are not going to sweep it under the carpet. The Catholic Church has learnt that it is one scandal when the priest does wrong, and the second scandal is when the church does nothing about it.

"We don't want to make that mistake again, to not address the problem or the person.

"What the church is doing now overseas and we will follow suit, is that these reports of abuse will not be condoned. The priest will not just be moved to another parish. He will be defrocked and reported to authorities.

"This is how the church as a whole is responding to such issues.

"And I also think it would be appropriate to say that sex abuse is not a clergy problem, it's a societal problem. Here we learn that no one is immune from evil."

The paedophile priest scandal first erupted in Boston, US in 2002 when many leaders of the Catholic archdiocese were found to have moved priests who abused minors to new parishes instead of defrocking them or reporting them to authorities.


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