A Roman Catholic priest from the Philippines who has been working in Hawai’i parishes since 1997 has admitted to sexual misconduct with a minor in the Philippines and is returning there today to face possible action by his diocese, the Diocese of Honolulu said yesterday.
The Diocese of Honolulu said it has no information about abuse in Hawai’i involving the Rev. Roberto Batoon.
The Rev. Roberto Batoon, who was serving as administrator for three Roman Catholic churches on Moloka’i, has been removed from that post because of allegations against him, including one of sexual misconduct with a minor, his congregations learned yesterday.
“The diocese has no information that any abuse involving Father Batoon has occurred in Hawai’i,” said Father Gary Secor, director of the Office of Clergy for the Diocese of Honolulu.
But diocese spokesman Patrick Downes said “one of the reasons why this was announced publicly was to encourage people to come forward if they know of any other allegations against Batoon, or any other member of the local clergy.”
Before taking over as administrator of the three churches on Moloka’i in August 2001, Batoon was associate pastor at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Pearl City from 1997 to 1999, and at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in ‘Ewa Beach from 1999 to 2001, Downes said.
Secor will make the same statement to the Pearl City and ‘Ewa Beach parishes today, Downes said.
Batoon, reached at his home on Moloka’i last week, declined to discuss the matter, saying he wanted to wait “until something is official.”
Secor, who is chairman of the diocese’s standing committee for sexual misconduct, said Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo instructed Batoon “to return to his diocese in the Philippines to meet with his bishop and address these matters.”
The churches on Moloka’i are part of a parish known as the Moloka’i Catholic Community.
Secor personally read the statement about Batoon’s dismissal to members of the three congregations on Moloka’i: St. Sophia in Kaunakakai, Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Kalua’aha and St. Vincent Ferrer in Maunaloa.
“The sexual misconduct is alleged to have happened in the Philippines,” Secor’s statement said. “Father Batoon has admitted to officials of the Diocese of Honolulu the substance of these allegations.”
Downes said that if Batoon had admitted to such alleged sexual misconduct in the United States, “he would no longer be allowed to act as a priest,” and his case would have been referred to police for criminal investigation. He said he did not know how the case would be handled in the Philippines.
In the formal statement, Secor said, “In taking the actions that have been indicated, Bishop DiLorenzo reaffirms the commitment of the Catholic Church to seriously address allegations of sexual misconduct and to respond to such allegations, and the persons who bring them to the church’s attention, with truthfulness and compassion.”
The information came to the diocese in Honolulu from people in Hawai’i who are from the Philippines and said they learned of the allegations against Batoon in a recent visit to that country, Downes said.
He said Batoon was in his mid to late 50s.
Downes said Batoon was one of about 25 priests from outside the Honolulu diocese who hold jobs here because of a shortage of priests in Hawai’i. About fifteen of the 25 are from the Philippines, he said.
Parishioners on Moloka’i expressed shock at the news.
“Father Batoon is a very nice priest,” said Filemon David Nanod, who heads St. Sophia’s finance committee. “I’m definitely surprised. I don’t know where this came from.”