‘A ticking time bomb’: Timor-Leste begins to reckon with alleged Catholic church sex abuse

A ticking time bomb

Title: ‘A ticking time bomb’: Timor-Leste begins to reckon with alleged Catholic church sex abuse
Authors: Zevonia Vieira & Tjitske Lingsma
Publisher: The Guardian
Date: 22MAY2021
The trial of defrocked priest Richard Daschbach, charged with sexual abuse of 14 girls, is dividing the small, deeply Catholic country.

Lita grew up in a poor family in a hamlet surrounded by the spectacular mountains of Oecusse in Timor-Leste. When she was 11 years old she went to live in Topu Honis shelter home, in the mountainous, forest-encircled village of Kutet.The shelter was run by Richard Daschbach, a now-defrocked 84-year-old US priest who founded the facility in 1992.

Daschbach, born in Pittsburgh and a former member of the Society of the Divine Word, was a powerful man. He was regarded as an expert in local language and many residents were convinced he had magical powers. Over the years the shelter, which had the support of international donors, took care of more than 600 orphans, poor children, vulnerable adults and abused women.

Lita says that in the evenings, as they gathered for prayers, Daschbach would take a girl on his lap.

“She was the one who would go to spend the night with him in his room and on his bed,” Lita says in an interview with Neon Metin. “In the following night, there would be another girl. The priest himself would say, ‘Tonight, you sleep with me.’”

Lita says he also used a list of the names of the children, taped to the door of his room, to indicate which girl should spend the night with him.

When Daschbach took her into his room, she says, he would lock the door, close the windows, then rape her.

“Because we were so young, we couldn’t say anything, because he looked after us very well, just like we were his own children,” Lita says. “Our parents could not afford anything. Our parents didn’t give us food, clothes and money. He looked after us. So, when he was abusing us sexually, we stayed quiet.”

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