Sunday, August 07, 2005

A Catholic Deacon Charged With Sexual Assault

WAILUKU, HAWAII - A Catholic deacon charged with 60 counts of sexual assault of a minor allegedly had oral sex with a boy nearly once a month for more than two years, according to an indictment that was unsealed yesterday.

James Ronald Gonsalves, 68, is accused of 30 counts of first-degree sexual assault for the alleged oral sex incidents, and 30 counts of third-degree sexual assault, which are described in the indictment only as sexual contact with the boy. He is also accused of two counts of attempted first-degree sexual assaults for alleged incidents in 2002 and 2003, according to the grand jury indictment.

Gonsalves, who is on leave as a paid deacon and administrator at St. Ann Church in Waihee, has pleaded not guilty to all charges. He has been freed after posting $100,000 bail pending trial on Sept. 26 and must remain in his Wailuku home except when visiting his attorney's office or his mother, a patient at Maui Memorial Medical Center.

Maui police have alleged that the June 14 assault occurred at St. Ann Church and that the assaults happened when the boy was ages 12 to 15. The redacted version of the indictment eliminated the name of the minor at the request of the county prosecutor's office, which sought to protect his identity. Prosecutor Davelynn Tengan said one of her office's goals is to protect the victim and family.

Gonsalves served as a ticket agent for Hawaiian Airlines for 29 years before retiring, according to court records, and has served as a deacon since 1987, first at St. Anthony's Church and later at St. Ann for six years.

A background check by state authorities found no criminal record. He was indicted by a Maui grand jury on July 25 and arrested two days later. Dozens of parishioners who say Gonsalves has done much good for the church attended his bail hearing Monday.

The Catholic Church in Hawaii has faced several sexual abuse allegations involving clergy:

» In January 2003, the Rev. Roberto Batoon, who served in Hawaii parishes since 1997, was removed from a Molokai parish based on a complaint about sexual abuse in the Philippines. He was ordered to return to his diocese in the Philippines.

» In August 2002 the Rev. Joseph Bukoski was removed as pastor of Maria Lanakila Church in Lahaina after the diocesan Standing Committee on Sexual Misconduct investigated complaints by two men claiming incidents dating back 20 years.

» In May 2000 the Rev. Mark Matson, a former Tripler Hospital chaplain, was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment after conviction of third-degree sex assault and attempted first-degree sex assault for a 1998 incident with a 13-year-old boy at Maunalua Bay Park.

» In April 1992 the Rev. Arthur O'Brien, a former Maui pastor, was sentenced to five years' probation on three counts of third-degree sexual assault and one count of attempted sexual assault. He pleaded no contest to the charges from the 1989 incidents.

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