Visit by bishop raises anger

Monday, August 5th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ A 16-year-old Pryor girl who claims she was molested by her former priest confronted Tulsa's Roman Catholic bishop Sunday and questioned why there was no investigation.

The confrontation with Bishop Edward Slattery of the Catholic Diocese of Tulsa occurred during a surprise visit by Slattery to a potluck supper at St. Mark's Catholic Church in Pryor.

Slattery answered just a few questions about how the case was handled during the visit, according to parishioners.

``People said, 'Why did you come here if you can't tell us anything?,''' the teenager told the Tulsa World.

The girl said she confronted Slattery after he told parishioners he would investigate the matter.

``I stood up in front of everyone and said, `Well, why didn't you do an investigation in the first place?' and I ran out of the room and knocked a chair over,'' she said.

Slattery refused to allow a Tulsa World reporter to attend the meeting and declined comment afterward.

``We have a right to privacy, you know, and you're a reporter. Leave those people alone,'' Slattery said as he left the church. Becoming visibly angry, he asked the reporter to leave the church's parking lot.

Slattery was accompanied by the Rev. Peter Phung, the parish's new pastor. The potluck supper was originally scheduled to welcome Phung.

In a statement read Sunday to all churches in the Tulsa diocese, Slattery promised that a detailed explanation of the church's handling of child sexual abuse allegations would appear in the Eastern Oklahoma Catholic, the diocese's newspaper.

The Pryor girl maintains that her former parish priest, the Rev. John Jangam, molested her on several occasions in 1999 when she was 13. The diocese withdrew its sponsorship of Jangam, a foreign priest, and he was returned to India.

The case was not reported to authorities. Diocese officials said the girl told them initially only that Jangam had tried to hug and kiss her, and that her family did not want the matter reported to police.

Slattery's office said earlier that Jangam had been excommunicated because he revealed what the girl said to him during confession. Jangam maintains that he has not been excommunicated and that he is running an orphanage in India.

He denied the girl's allegations but acknowledged that she was in his bedroom once to watch television.

The girl said Slattery ``got upset when people started asking questions. Everyone was mad.''

As Slattery left the church, the girl said, a woman standing next to her confronted him.

``This lady said, `Don't you think you owe her an explanation?' and he just walked out.''

The girl said Slattery kept reminding parish members that ``this is supposed to be a party.''