A defrocked American priest yesterday faced a criminal trial on allegations he sexually abused young girls at a children’s shelter he ran in a remote enclave in East Timor.
Richard Daschbach, 84, a former missionary from Pennsylvania, has been charged with 14 counts of sexual abuse of children under the age of 14, as well as counts of child pornography and domestic violence.
The case against Daschbach represents East Timor’s first child sex case filed against a priest, but it has been complicated by his hero status and loyal devotion from followers.
The son of a Pittsburgh steelworker, he arrived in the nation as part of Divine Word Missionaries in the 1960s and became an unlikely leader in the tiny nation’s struggle for independence from neighboring Indonesia in 1999.
He is credited with sheltering women and children, and even helping fight off attackers.
He also founded Topu Honis, a children’s home that has over the years taken in hundreds of boys and girls who were either orphaned or came from desperately poor families.
Allegations that Daschbach was abusing those children first surfaced three years ago.
A Catholic Church official said that Daschbach was defrocked in 2018 after he confessed to sexually abusing children.
The allegations ranged from fondling and oral sex to rape.
Daschbach is also wanted in the US for three counts of wire fraud. An Interpol red notice has been issued for his arrest.
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