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Catholic Church Officials Admit Trinidad Priest Defrocked For Sexually Molesting Teen-Age Boys in 1997

May 30, 2002 | AP

Church officials said Thursday a priest was defrocked and forced to resign from Trinidad's Catholic Presentation College for allegedly molesting an undisclosed number of teen-age boys.

The priest and principal of the school, Michael Benedict, left his position in 1997 under orders from then-Archbishop Anthony Pantin of this twin-island Caribbean country, said Christian Perreira, the vicar general.

The church did not turn over information to police but paid for victims' rehabilitation, including psychological counseling, Perreira said. Church officials did not know Benedict's whereabouts.

Archbishop Edward Gilbert — an American who took over the archdiocese last year after Pantin died — said Thursday that any evidence produced now to support such happenings would be turned over to the police.

Gilbert said he would meet Wednesday with priests of the archdiocese to inform them of new church policies strengthening the church's stance against allegations of sexual misconduct.

"But there is an absolute need for people to understand that priests will not be undermined by rumors or anonymous letters. Those making allegations will have to come forward with proof," Gilbert said.

While this is the first time the church in Trinidad has openly admitted to an incident of sexually misconduct of a priest with a minor, Andrew Allen, who served here as a priest in the late 1970s, was recently convicted of indecently assaulting two brothers in Ireland.

Allen abused the two boys during visits home from Trinidad between 1981 and 1985, an Irish court found. The 57-year-old was given a two-year suspended sentence and ordered to pay compensation to the two, who said they suffered problems as a result of the abuse.

Allen was jailed for a year in 1993 for sexually assaulting an altar boy in Ireland between 1991 and 1992.

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