Ex-deacon gets 1 year for abuse
James Gonsalves of Maui will also have 20 years' probation
WAILUKU » During the period he was repeatedly molesting a teenage boy, former Catholic deacon James Ronald Gonsalves attended training about keeping children safe from sexual abuse.
Gonsalves was sentenced yesterday to one year in prison and 20 years' probation for 62 acts of sexual assault between June 2002 and June 2005. Gonsalves, 69, earlier pleaded guilty to the assaults that occurred while he was administrator of St. Ann Church in Waihee, Maui.
Catholic diocesan spokesman Patrick Downes said Gonsalves attended the Safe Environment training program, which was launched in 2003 in response to the nationwide scandal as dozens of Catholic priests were accused of sexually assaulting minors.
"Everyone who works with children in the diocese, professional or volunteer, priest, nun or lay person, is required to take it," Downes said. Professional family counselors at Catholic Charities present the one-day training course annually to people who work in parishes, schools and other organizations. He said the course includes training on setting boundaries in relationships with other people and teaches how to recognize behavior that signals sexual abuse.
Acting Maui Circuit Judge Rhonda Loo ordered Gonsalves to write a letter of apology to the victim and to continue with psychological treatment until he is clinically discharged. Gonsalves' lawyer, Philip Lowenthal, said his client agreed to establish a fund to pay for the treatment and education of the victim, who was 12 years old when the assaults began.
Hawaii's Catholic Bishop Larry Silva affirmed his "support for the young person who had the courage to report this crime," in a written statement yesterday. He asked that people "lift this person up in prayer, that there may be healing from the Lord."
Silva said, "Sexual abuse of minors by the clergy or any church worker is absolutely intolerable," in a June 16 statement published in the Hawaii Catholic Herald. "We are all horrified by the immoral and criminal actions of Mr. Gonsalves and the hurt that he has caused."
In the June statement to Catholics, Silva said he had wanted to offer pastoral assistance to the victim but that the Maui County prosecutor asked that he not do so because such contact "might contaminate the police investigation."
The bishop withdrew Gonsalves' "faculties" to function as a deacon or in any ministry in the church here. He said the case will be reported to the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has the power to remove Gonsalves from status as deacon.
Gonsalves was pulled from the St. Ann parish job on June 22, 2005, after the police notified church authorities about charges made by the boy. On May 17 he pleaded guilty to 30 counts of first-degree sexual assault, two counts of attempted first-degree sexual assault and 30 counts of third-degree sexual assault.
Gonsalves, who was born on Maui and was not married, retired after 29 years as a Hawaiian Airlines agent. He was ordained in 1987 as deacon, a position held by a few Catholic laymen who assume some administrative and ministerial roles short of the authority held by Catholic priests.
The court received more than 30 letters from Maui parishioners and others in support of Gonsalves, who was credited with bringing St. Ann parish out of debt and more than doubling its membership during his seven years as full-time administrator.