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A Beloved Priest Accused, A Parish in Disbelief

'Fr. Chris' defended by Visitation Parish faithful

To parishioners at Church of the Visitation in Brick, it came as the shock of a lifetime.

The priest who had encouraged them through times of sadness and fear, who brought food to the local needy and who comforted those who found themselves in periods of grief – had been accused of a crime that is as depressing and disappointing as it is serious and unthinkable.

Fr. Marukudiyil C. Velan, 64, known to parishioners at the Mantoloking Road church as "Father Chris," was arrested Saturday and , one against a minor.

A garden, named for Father Chris in the back of the church's yard, was empty Tuesday afternoon, a day after his arrest became publicly known. A few tomatoes looked ripe, presumably with no one there to pick them off the vine.

Parish staff directed inquiries about the case to the Diocese of Trenton.

But the faithful flocked to Brick Patch and said the charges couldn't be true. They described how the priest they knew dropped off food at the homes of those who were hungry, prayed with sick relatives at the hospital late at night, and worked with Mother Theresa in his native India before coming to the United States.

"This man has been alone with me for counseling of my faith," said Donna Smith. "Please don't let this be another witch hunt."

A woman who only gave her name as "Adrienne" said Father Chris helped her through a family tragedy, the death of her mother.

"If it weren't [for] his words of comfort I wouldn't have made it through," she said. "Every Sunday since, my daughter and I go to Mass. He stops the procession and 'high-fives' my daughter, or we make it a point to find him to speak with [him] or simply give him a hug. Just being in his presence makes you feel better. He has a light that surrounds him."

Legal Process to Follow

The Ocean County Prosecutor's Office has not released the names of the alleged victims who filed a police report against Velan. Shield laws prevent their release. And that's a good thing, some say.

"We are very grateful to this brave family for reporting Fr. Chris’ crimes," said David Clohessy, a spokesman for the Survivors' Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. "They should be commended for acting responsibly and promptly."

But some take issue with SNAP, and what they see as the organization's tendency to judge an accused priest before he is indicted or brought to trial.

"Some people jump immediately to the conclusion of guilt, and some people automatically go the other way," said David F. Pierre, Jr., a journalist based in New England who has chronicled the Roman Catholic Church's sex abuse scandals on his website, The Media Report. "People do need to know that there are false allegations out there. We hear so much about Catholic priest abuse that people tend to jump to conclusions."

Pierre said after reading media reports about the case against Velan, he was reminded of a recent case in Hawaii against Fr. Bohdan Borowec, who was accused of kidnapping and sexual assault after hugging a woman during a farewell party at a church he was visiting.

Borowec was brought to trial and found not guilty after just a few minutes of jury deliberations, Pierre said.

"What makes this case so unusual is that it's so recent," said Pierre, referring to Velan's arrest just a day after the alleged crime occurred. "Almost all of the stories we get in the news these days are priests getting arrested for things they did years ago, usually decades ago."

"This case could be all true, we don't know," he said. "But the correct approach is a cautious approach."

Nobody knows if the allegations are true, but judging from the response of parishioners, Fr. Chris maintains a high level of local support, even as he continues to sit in a cell at the Ocean County Jail in lieu of $100,000 cash bail.

"Father Chris is a man who would do anything for you," said Anna Jones, a Visitation parishioner. "You could call him at 3 a.m. for a blessing  and he would be there. He has always been there for my family."

tpo original piney July 19, 2012 at 07:25 PM
wonder if were you or someone in your family if youd feel the same way other wise I hear Jerry Sandusky is lonely
Rebecca July 19, 2012 at 07:52 PM
We should wait for evidence before we rush to judgement on either side.
a long July 19, 2012 at 08:34 PM
My thoughts and prayers are with all involved. What strikes me as highly suspicious is the fact that no one else has come forward either from his past or the present to corroborate any previous abuse by this man. Seems highly unlikely that at the age of 64 one would decide to start abusing women and children. (Obviously, possible, but highly improbably). As we've all seen in the past, once one accuser comes forward, others begin coming forward in multitudes. No one wants to "judge" the victims here, but is there any "proof" who the actual victim in this case is? Abusive priests deserve to be penalized to the full extent of the law, but whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? Reading through a lot of these comments, it seems that there are a lot of people, catholics AND non-catholics, who are actually hoping the accusations are true just so they can justify their own negativity towards the Catholic Church. Let's not forget that regardless of whether it's the accusers or the accused, there is a real victim here, and people need to stop treating it like it's a reality t.v. show where we "root" for one against the other. I pray that the truth will come to light and that justice will be served.
John Doe July 19, 2012 at 09:48 PM
Accused or guilty? It's not the same thing. 90% are accused and proven wrong, and 10% are guilty, but you can't mixed the two. If 9 out of 10 are falsely accuse, they need to be subjected to the same penalty as those who are guilty. Justice goes both ways. Would you really want a guilty accuser to go free? Of course not. A Guilty violator or a sick accuser BOTH need to be brought to justice. Being accused does not mean guilty. Does anyone else have any stats on this?
Christopher Naples July 19, 2012 at 11:44 PM
sister Clara I am reminded that several years back when I exposed Father terence mcalinden that the support was strong in favor of the priest. the same accolades almost identical are once again being stated by the ones that have had positive experiences with the alleged perp. I am reminded that I was told i was the only one and that it couldnt be true. Im reminded that the diocese told me and my wife and even published it in the press through there spokewomen Bennett that they have no knowledge of any other victims. well as of today we now know there was a victim that came forward 20 plus years ago and the diocese offered a settlement with a gag order. so my thoughts are he this priest may be good to many but it doesn't excuse him from these allegations. because he hasnt done anything to you ersonally does not mean he is not capable to do this to others. chris
onewhoknows July 20, 2012 at 12:05 AM
Elizabeth.... You have an anti Catholic / anti religious organization slant to your beliefs and therefore your postings reflect that. Perhaps YOU are the one that needs to do some research as to the true teachings of the Catholic church and actual church history and teaching. It is YOU who have been slanted against the truth, and not the other way around. Your particular bias is very apparent. Even as simple as saying Mary is not the Mother of God. Jesus is part of the Holy Trinity. He is God. Mary is His Mother… Therefore Mother of God is a fitting title for her. As for Jesus' brothers, there are numerous references to Jesus using metaphoric language to refer to his followers as brothers. If Jesus had siblings, he would certainly have no need to place Mary in Saint John's care at the cross. His "bloodline siblings" would have automatically taken care of her. It would behoove you to look at actual church teaching which has been laboriously discussed by theologians over centuries to develop church teaching. And while I believe you mean well in your postings, you are the one who has absolutely no knowledge of Catholicism and what it actually teaches.
onewhoknows July 20, 2012 at 12:07 AM
Elizabeth.... You have an anti Catholic / anti religious organization slant to your beliefs and therefore your postings reflect that. Perhaps YOU are the one that needs to do some research as to the true teachings of the Catholic church and actual church history and teaching. It is YOU who have been slanted against the truth, and not the other way around. Your particular bias is very apparent. Even as simple as saying Mary is not the Mother of God. Jesus is part of the Holy Trinity. He is God. Mary is His Mother… Therefore Mother of God is a fitting title for her. As for Jesus' brothers, there are numerous references to Jesus using metaphoric language to refer to his followers as brothers. If Jesus had siblings, he would certainly have no need to place Mary in Saint John's care at the cross. His "bloodline siblings" would have automatically taken care of her. It would behoove you to look at actual church teaching which has been laboriously discussed by theologians over centuries to develop church teaching. And while I believe you mean well in your postings, you are the one who has absolutely no knowledge of Catholicism and what it actually teaches.
onewhoknows July 20, 2012 at 12:09 AM
Elizabeth.... You have an anti Catholic / anti religious organization slant to your beliefs and therefore your postings reflect that. Perhaps YOU are the one that needs to do some research as to the true teachings of the Catholic church and actual church history and teaching. It is YOU who have been slanted against the truth, and not the other way around. Your particular bias is very apparent. Even as simple as saying Mary is not the Mother of God. Jesus is part of the Holy Trinity. He is God. Mary is His Mother… Therefore Mother of God is a fitting title for her. As for Jesus' brothers, there are numerous references to Jesus using metaphoric language to refer to his followers as brothers. If Jesus had siblings, he would certainly have no need to place Mary in Saint John's care at the cross. His "bloodline siblings" would have automatically taken care of her. It would behoove you to look at actual church teaching which has been laboriously discussed by theologians over centuries to develop church teaching. And while I believe you mean well in your postings, you are the one who has absolutely no knowledge of Catholicism and what it actually teaches.
onewhoknows July 20, 2012 at 12:10 AM
Elizabeth.... You have an anti Catholic / anti religious organization slant to your beliefs and therefore your postings reflect that. Perhaps YOU are the one that needs to do some research as to the true teachings of the Catholic church and actual church history and teaching. It is YOU who have been slanted against the truth, and not the other way around. Your particular bias is very apparent. Even as simple as saying Mary is not the Mother of God. Jesus is part of the Holy Trinity. He is God. Mary is His Mother… Therefore Mother of God is a fitting title for her. As for Jesus' brothers, there are numerous references to Jesus using metaphoric language to refer to his followers as brothers. If Jesus had siblings, he would certainly have no need to place Mary in Saint John's care at the cross. His "bloodline siblings" would have automatically taken care of her. It would behoove you to look at actual church teaching which has been laboriously discussed by theologians over centuries to develop church teaching. And while I believe you mean well in your postings, you are the one who has absolutely no knowledge of Catholicism and what it actually teaches.
Christopher Naples July 20, 2012 at 12:10 AM
along wrote "What strikes me as highly suspicious is the fact that no one else has come forward either from his past or the present to corroborate any previous abuse by this man." my response to this is my experience. Several years back I came forward about Father Terence Mcalinden (Trenton Diocese priest) when I did come forward I was told by the Diocese I was the only victim that has made allegations and also was told by parishioners that how could this be true you are the only victim. Well to date we now know there was a victim that reported Mcalinden 20 plus years ago and that the Diocese knew of Mcalinden. We also to date now have at min 3 more victims that have come forward possibly 9. The allegations made against a Visitation priest is hitting me hard. Many of the devout members I know and know of me and my situation. I grew up in the Visitation parish and what I read is identicle to what I experienced when I came forward. Father is holy father is a good man father could never do this, the one making the allegation is seeking money etc... well say what you want because i get it. father can do no wrong because of his prestige power and wealth. we have put priest on a high pedestal its shocking to think that a priest could do such evil. it is possible it is.
Shannon July 20, 2012 at 01:05 AM
This situation is very strange. As someone who knows none of the parties involved, and is neither pro-Catholic nor anti-faith, what I can say is that as someone who is a mandatory reporter, one thing we are taught is that these types of abusers have a "type" of victim. Someone who preys on children, does not usually also abuse adults. For that reason alone, I find this situation very troubling.
Christopher Naples July 20, 2012 at 01:22 AM
Shanon is it not possible that an abuser could be interested in both women and children?
Christopher Naples July 20, 2012 at 01:35 AM
if you know father chris so well then how would you answer this question''''''''''''if someone was to go to father chris and tell him they were sexual assualted by another priest what would father chris tell you?
Chrissy The Saint July 20, 2012 at 02:57 AM
Ok the mother was in the room no maternal extinct to defend child? She was so intimidated by some mid 60 year old foreigner that she couldn't defend herself or her child. If it was my kid I would have got weapon and sent him to meet the father, son and the holy ghost in person. And if incapable of that at least end the assault and remove myself and child from the situation.
Christopher Naples July 20, 2012 at 02:57 AM
i can quote bible verses to lol. luke 17:2
Christopher Naples July 20, 2012 at 03:01 AM
im just taking this opportunity to express a victims view.
Christopher Naples July 20, 2012 at 03:08 AM
john doe where do you get these facts from? i think 100percent accused are accused and my thoughts on 1 out of 10 are proven guilty cause most of the time the ones that are abused do not come forward till there well past the statue. and there should be no statue on child sexual abuse.
Christopher Naples July 20, 2012 at 03:11 AM
ad father terence mcalinden to that report cause in the late 80 the trenton dioses knoew of macalinden and i guess it was a oversight not to make it in the report that went from 1950 to 2002. so my question is how many more priest that were accused or covered up for that didnt make it to the report
Christopher Naples July 20, 2012 at 03:13 AM
also the 2002 bishops conference said that each dioces needs to report the preist accused in there bishops annual report. well Mcalinden has not made it on this report yet
Christopher Naples July 20, 2012 at 03:31 AM
hometown and angela thumbs up. its is sad to live with csa. or any abuse for that matter. wear your white ribbon and wear it proud just remember your concerns for the one making the allegations should be just as real for fr chris. your heart does not know the fact it can only feel for the one you are closer to. if you were the parent or the bff of the victim and didn't know fr chris you would most likely support the victim making the allegations. reverse roles purely heart driven based on your knowing someone better. If you go to church this weekend and have 100 people putting the ribbon on and the alleged victim goes to mass and see's this what is that teaching? well to me its teaching that the doors of faith(catholic faith are not open to all) now if you pushed the white ribbons for all to wear with no one sidedness and for pure praying for all involved then just then this is what the church truly is based on right?
John Doe July 20, 2012 at 04:57 AM
10 accusations, 10 victims, always! Christopher Naples, for give me for using your name and I am sorry if you or your loved ones have suffered injustice. I don't think any reasonable human being would disagree with a victims view, unfortunately to many people assume that if one is accused = Guilty. The truth is independent of what anyone wants to believe. Emotionally charged topics breeds biased especially if someone has been injured. Of course any rational person would agree that a guilty abuser should be punished and that's not the issue I personally speak of. I speak for 10 out of 10 victims and not just the one that was in reality abused. I get it and understand that one should not be afraid to speak out or be deterred, if they have been abused. They often don't because they think any one will believe them and the truth is that you get both extremes and many in between. It does not lesson the fact that in 10 incidents of accusations, there will always be 10 victims. Do you let 9 go in hopes of catching the one actual abuser or the other way around? It works both ways. A reasonable person if they have any decency would want to protect the innocent, the victim regardless if they were abused or heinously slandered. Both are a death sentence and deserving of compassion and justice. 10 accusations, 10 victims, always!
Shannon July 20, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Sorry, this is actually in response to your reply to my comment, but there is no reply button there, so I'll post here. Of course, as any human knows, anything in the universe is possible, but putting that aside for a moment, I can only say how sorry I am for what you have been through. Obviously you are speaking from a very deeply personal place and I applaud you in your continued recovery. Speaking from a completely different place and as a mandatory reporter who has had to attend classes on what signs to look for, etc, I only know that it would be very rare for an abuser to be interested in a male child AND an adult female. Both the opposing sexes and the opposing age levels are unusual at best. As we know from Sandusky and many other very high profile cases, the attraction of these types of abusers seem to be toward one "type" of victim...ie. Sandusky was interested in boys of a younger age, but was never accused (to the best of my knowledge, forgive me if I am wrong) by one of his players, likely because they were too old to be within his preferred "type." I do not know any of the people involved in this situation, and consider myself a person of faith, rather than religion, but something about this situation gives me pause. I pray for all victims of abuse and all whose lives are destroyed by false accusations and I especially pray that the truth will come out in this situation.
Elizabeth July 20, 2012 at 04:03 PM
No...God says in His Word, The Holy Bible...we, the believers, are all a "royal priesthood". "As many who are lead by The Spirit of God, they are the sons of God". Guess none of you have The Holy Spirit yet. ps. God created Mary, she cannot be His mother.
one who really knows July 21, 2012 at 04:02 AM
Oh Elizabeth....John 20:23: If you forgive anyone's sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."
JOHNNY Done it July 28, 2012 at 02:22 AM
If the public takes notice the people that do this kind of stuff in a trusted postion look at how many other priests have had these allegations Look at sandusky He had the duty to protect these families children & to add his wife with the hearing problem who didnt want to hear what was going on...I guess the management didnt believe or did not want to believe this was going on....these are people that were looked up too ...
oldsoldier July 29, 2012 at 01:17 AM
I don't think Sandusky was a priest.
Carol July 30, 2012 at 04:25 PM
It is exactly this type of person/monster who earns everybody's trust (especially a priest) and then preys on kids. I know father Chris & I've always had a weird gut feeling about him. He was always a little too touchy feely even with my two kids. I admire the courage of the woman and her son for doing what's right. forthekids - People have free will to chose to do good or evil. What a shame!
diana verderame kieffer August 01, 2012 at 10:31 AM
I have known and trusted Father Chris for a long time he has seen our family thru the crisis of death-life marraige and sacremants for my children and grandchildren I do not beleive a word of this and the rpeople should stand behind him as he has done for many of us--he is compassionate and loving and giving not a perv...lets all get together and show him some love and support do not hang him on the cross we dont know the full story and a person should be claimed innocent until proven guilty..isnt that the faith of our country...???He has been alone with me and our family on many occasions and never made a pass at us and we are a family of all females--I dont beleive a word of this....
JOHNNY Done it August 03, 2012 at 01:59 AM
Old soldier ,,May be i worded it wrong , Sanduskys position along with it comes the trust & the duty to watch out for our children ,Not to sexual assault them..Just like Father chris
JOHNNY Done it August 03, 2012 at 02:08 AM
The false ones dont get charged found guilty & sent to jail ...There has been many of them ,maybe they need to practice more religion .There was enough evidence to charge him .. Practicing religion doesnt give you pass .

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