A day after a local priest accused the Palm Beach Diocese of kicking him out for reporting sexual misconduct, church officials fired back and called the priest a liar. Father John Gallagher said officials from the Palm Beach Diocese strongly suggested he take a leave of absence after he reported a visiting priest from India had shown child pornography to a 14-year-old boy after Mass.
Franciscan Fr. Jose Palimattom was jailed Jan. 9 in West Palm Beach, Fla., after admitting he asked a 14-year-old boy to help delete various files on his phone and that the image showed up during the purge, the Sun Sentinel reported.
Police told The National Catholic Reporter that Palimattom, also told them he had been reprimanded by his superiors in Franciscan Province of St. Thomas the Apostle in India for being involved with a boy, but that the incident was not reported to law enforcement authorities.
The Palm Beach diocese reportedly said Palimattom began serving at Holy Name of Jesus Parish in West Palm Beach in December after being screened. The diocese said he had been certified for ministry by provincial authorities in India. Police said they learned of the incident from the boy’s father on Jan. 8 after the boy told him about the images.
The diocese said it contacted the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office immediately after learning of the allegation and cooperated with the investigation that led to the priest’s arrest.
“The Diocese of Palm Beach completes a thorough screening of visiting priests and religious before granting them faculties to minister or celebrate sacraments within its diocese,” the church statement said. “During this background process, no prior misconduct was revealed,” it said.
A police report indicated Palimattom told investigators he had served for two years in Florida, The Associated Press reported. He denied any molestation to detectives and said that he viewed child pornography out of curiosity, the police report said.
Police also said the priest sent the teen a Facebook message hours after showing his phone to him. “Goodnight, sweet dreams,” the message said.