Defrocked US priest accused of child abuse in East Timor

By Margie Mason and Robin McDowell | Associated Press

It was the same every night. A list of names was posted on the Rev. Richard Daschbach’s bedroom door. The child at the top of the roster knew it was her turn to share the lower bunk with the elderly priest and another elementary school-aged girl.

Daschbach was idolized in the remote enclave of East Timor where he lived, largely for his role in helping save lives during the tiny nation’s bloody struggle for independence. So, the girls never spoke about the abuse they suffered. They said they were afraid they would be banished from the shelter the 84-year-old from Pennsylvania established decades ago for abused women, orphans, and other destitute children.

The horrors of what they said happened behind closed doors over a period of years is now being played out in court — the first clergy sex case in a country that is more solidly Catholic than any other place aside from the Vatican. The trial was postponed last month due to a coronavirus lockdown, but is expected to resume in May.

At least 15 females have come forward, according to JU,S Jurídico Social, a group of human rights lawyers representing them. The Associated Press has spoken to a third of the accusers, each recalling their experiences in vivid detail. They are not being identified because of fears of retribution.

They told AP Daschbach would sit on a chair every night in the middle of a room holding a little girl, surrounded by a ring of children and staff members praying and singing hymns before bed.
“The way that you determine who sits on his lap is by the list that he’d have on his door,” one accuser said. “And that meant that you were the little girl that was going to go with him.”

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Later in his room, they said Daschbach would strip down to white boxer shorts and a T-shirt and then undress the girls, giving them deodorant to put on before fondling them and quietly guiding their hands to touch him. Then, they said, there would often be oral sex. One accuser also alleged she was raped.

He would sometimes ask the children with him on the lower bunk to switch places with one or two others sleeping on the mattress above, they said, adding abuse also occasionally occurred during afternoon naps.

Daschbach faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty. He and his lawyer declined to be interviewed by the AP.

The church defrocked Daschbach in 2018, saying he had confessed to sexually abusing children. But he maintains strong political ties and is still treated like a rock star by many, especially at the Topu Honis shelter, which means “Guide to Life.”

Former President Xanana Gusmao attended the trial’s opening in February. A month earlier, the independence hero visited Daschbach on his birthday, hand-feeding cake to the former priest and lifting a glass of wine to his lips, as cameras flashed.

Daschbach’s lawyers have not made their legal …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Latest News

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