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The Rev. Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul, who allegedly molested two teenage girls while serving in a Minnesota parish a few years ago, will return from India to face sexual assault charges. Apparently, he wasn’t aware that the U.S., with the Vatican’s cooperation, had been trying to extradite him, until The New York Times came calling recently. (Really?)

What confuses me here is that the Vatican, which had recommended that Jeyapaul be defrocked after learning of the accusations, leaves it up to local bishops to deal with clergy accused of crimes. (The issue of reporting the crimes to the police is another can of worms, though fortunately in this case, the secular authorities were called in.) GetReligion has observed that most journalists aren’t knowledgeable about canon law; I’ll definitely have to do some homework, but it seems that Pope Benedict or one of his cardinals can’t just demand that an offending priest be laicized, if the bishop thinks it’s not necessary… Hmmm.

In the meantime, check out Rod Dreher’s blog, which discusses whether this case indicates that the Catholic Church needs to further centralize its authority, to address the “problems of localism.” It’s an interesting twist, given that victims and advocates have long argued that the church heirarchy, with top officials too far removed from parish life, is what contributed to a culture of secrecy and cover-ups in the first place. What do you think?

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