A Statement from the Diocese of Rapid City

John Praveen was accused of sexual contact with a minor and arrested on October 2, 2018.

This was reported in the news media. Bishop Gruss and the Diocese of Rapid City continue to cooperate with civil authorities as this case moves through the court system. In light of recent news, it is important to give an update about this case.

Bishop Gruss and the Diocese of Rapid City remain committed to protecting the safety of our children. Any allegation of abuse is taken seriously and if it is deemed credible the diocese reports the allegation to civil authorities and cooperates with them.

At the same time, we reach out to the victims and their families through the Victim Assistance Coordinator. This protects the privacy and the anonymity of the victims and their families. The bishop and the diocese seek to offer concern and solace, medical care, mental health services and spiritual guidance. In the case of Father Praveen, the diocese has reached out through the Victim Assistance Coordinator to the victim and family. They are also receiving support from their own pastor and other priests who know them.

The Diocese of Rapid City also seeks to treat all persons involved in any misconduct with dignity and respect, seeking justice with compassion. This is the Gospel message and the call of Jesus. In addition, the bishop of a diocese is obligated by Church law to take care of the priests assigned to his care. This means assisting them in fulfilling their assigned ministry, providing for their basic needs and holding them accountable for their behavior. Bishop Gruss is concerned not only for the victim and the victim’s family, but also for Father John.

Father John Praveen is a priest from the Holy Spirit Fathers located in Hyderabad, India. He and Fr. George Vincent were released from ministry in India by their religious order to serve in our diocese for several years. Both of them went through a careful screening process, in both the religious order and through our own Safe Environment process prior to beginning ministry in Eagle Butte, SD. Father John began ministry at the Cathedral in Rapid City in July and Father George continued ministry in Eagle Butte. Father George has discerned that he is not called to continue ministry in our diocese and he returned to India this week.

Father John is currently in the Pennington County Jail. His bail is $100,000 cash. On Tuesday, November 6, 2018 an arraignment was held, in which Father John was expected to enter a plea. His lawyer, who was retained and is being paid for by Father John’s religious order in India, asked that an interpreter who could speak Father John’s native language be contacted through a translation service. This was to ensure Father John’s clear understanding of the hearing. Because the interpreter could not be contacted, the arraignment was moved to November 16th. A request was made by his attorney for a reduction in bail so that Father John could be released thus allowing easier access to Fr. John and sufficient time with him to prepare his case, especially in light of his language difficulties.

If Father John’s bail is posted, the question of where Father John would be housed will need to be addressed, including protective measures to ensure public safety. That would ultimately be determined by the judge as well as any type of monitoring system. Bishop Gruss, working with chancery staff and priests in the area, have been exploring options. The Casa Santa Maria, a fourplex designed to house retired priests of the diocese, was suggested as a potential option. That has been removed as an option because of the proximity to a middle school and the Our Lady of the Black Hills Church and concerns expressed by members of the Catholic Church and other persons in the community.

There remains no attempt to be secretive about anything in this process. Contrary to the perception of some, the diocese is not and will not attempt to hide or protect Father John from the  consequences of his actions nor would the courts allow this. At the same time, if bail is reduced and posted, the Bishop will be required to provide some sort of adequate housing for Father John. He is responsible for all priests serving in the diocese, that they are treated with justice and dignity.

This situation is complicated and very difficult. It is painful for the victim and the victim’s family in ways that only those who have been victims of abuse of any kind can understand. Many people in our community, indeed in our whole country, are hurt, angry and confused. It is important that prayer surround our dialogue so that charity will remain at the center of this process, first and foremost for the victim and family and for all victims of abuse. Prayer is also important for those who are immediately involved with working through this process, as well as for Father John and all alleged perpetrators. Living the Gospel calls for this prayerful response. We also know that God’s justice is always tempered with mercy, and so should ours.

The Diocese will continue to be transparent in listening to and responding to the questions and concerns that are raised. Please know that you may call or email the diocese and we will respond.

605-343-3541 or chancery@diorc.org.