National / Crime & Legal

Catholic priest in Nagasaki accused of sexual harassment

JIJI

A woman in Nagasaki Prefecture has lodged a complaint with the police saying she was sexually harassed by a Catholic priest, it was learned Friday.

The Archdiocese of Nagasaki suspended the priest but did not disclose the event to its followers, informed sources said.

The archdiocese, the second-largest in Japan in terms of number of followers, cited medical treatment as the reason behind the priest’s absence.

Pope Francis, set to visit Japan from Saturday, issued an order in May obligating the clergy to report any sexual abuse by clerics to the Vatican.

In May 2018, the priest, described as being in his 40s, allegedly told the woman to come to a church where he serves in Nagasaki and committed indecent acts, including unwanted hugging and touching her body, according to informed sources.

The woman was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and underwent long-term hospitalization, the sources said.

The Nagasaki Prefectural Police is investigating the case on suspicion of forcible indecency, they said.

The priest apologized to senior officials at the archdiocese, saying, “I caused great trouble to the woman and to the church,” the sources added.

When asked by a reporter to comment, the priest said, “I can’t say anything.”

There are 16 dioceses across the country. The Archdiocese of Nagasaki has about 60,000 followers, making it second-largest after the Archdiocese of Tokyo. It also has the most churches at 133.

Sexual abuse by Christian priests began to be exposed in many parts of the world after a U.S. newspaper report addressed the issue in 2002. Systematic cover-ups of the crimes have since drawn much criticism.

Surveys mainly by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan in 2002 and 2012 showed that both clerics and monks have sexually abused children in Japan.

The organization, however, does not have much information on cases in which adult followers were victimized.

Some have criticized the churches for conducting surveys on their own, saying they lack a sense of crisis about the situation.