Boston archdiocese removes hospital chaplain from ministry after sex abuse allegation
QUINCY — A Catholic priest who had been working as a Boston hospital chaplain was arraigned Tuesday for the alleged sexual abuse of a young girl in 2006, authorities said.
The Rev. Christian Ohazulume, an extern priest from Nigeria, allegedly assaulted the girl while he was living with a family in Randolph upon his arrival in the United States, officials said. The girl was about 8 years old at the time, prosecutors said.
At his arraignment in Quincy District Court, Ohazulume, 50, pleaded not guilty to three counts of aggravated indecent assault and battery of a child under 14. He allegedly touched the girl’s vaginal area, fondled her breast, and forcibly kissed her, prosecutors said.
In an interview with police last week, the alleged victim said she had come from Nigeria to live with her father, stepmother, and brothers in Randolph when she was about 7. Her father introduced Ohazulume as his nephew, she told police.
She told investigators that Ohazulume would drive her to and from school and help with baby-sitting, according to court documents. Her father worked long hours as a pharmacist in Dorchester and would come home late, she said.
The alleged assault occurred when she went to Ohazulume’s bedroom for help with her homework one night when nobody else was home, the woman told police.
At one point, he went to the bathroom and returned to stand over her, fondling her breasts, she said.
When she approached him later that evening to show him her homework, he forced his tongue into her mouth, the woman told police. He then lay on top of her on the bed and rubbed her vaginal area over her clothing, she said. She forced his hand away and ran from the room, she said.
Afterward, he continued to drive her to school but she became very angry with everyone in the house, where Ohazulume would hold private Masses for the family.
The woman said she returned to Nigeria when she was 11 or 12, then came back to Randolph to attend Roxbury Community College.
Ohazulume had worked as a chaplain at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center while residing at St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Brookline since 2010, according to The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston.
After receiving the abuse allegation on Aug. 31, church officials removed Ohazulume from ministry and barred him from parish property. Ohazulume had “assisted in celebrating Mass and hearing confessions” at the Brookline parish, church officials said.
Officials at St. Mary of the Assumption declined to comment.
Jennifer Kritz, a spokeswoman for Beth Israel, said Ohazulume had been fired from his job at the hospital.
“When the Archdiocese informed us about the allegation and its decision to revoke Rev. Ohazulume’s ministry faculties, we immediately placed him on unpaid leave and terminated him shortly thereafter,” Kritz said in a statement. “He is no longer employed by BIDMC.”
The hospital noted that it does not have a pediatrics unit and does not treat children, except for newborns delivered at the hospital or its neonatal intensive-care unit.
In a statement, church officials said they immediately notified law enforcement after receiving the allegation.
“The Archdiocese has been in contact with his home Diocese of Nnewi, Nigeria and informed them of the allegation and that his faculties to minister have been withdrawn in the Archdiocese of Boston,” the statement read. “The Archdiocese was advised by law enforcement to delay until today release of this information while they initiated their investigation.”
The charges come as the Catholic Church faces renewed scrutiny for its handling of sexual abuse complaints.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley said over the weekend in Rome that addressing the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church “must be the priority that we concentrate on right now,” with survivors providing insight to Vatican officials.
His remarks came at the conclusion of the three-day Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, a group the Boston cardinal heads.
The meeting followed the July resignation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, former archbishop of Washington who stepped down from the College of Cardinals amid allegations that he sexually abused minors and adult seminarians. In August, O’Malley publicly apologized for the way his office handled a 2015 letter from a New York priest alleging sexual abuse by McCarrick. O’Malley’s secretary did not deliver the letter to the cardinal at the time, on the grounds that the commission is not empowered to deal with individual complaints.
Last week, retired Monsignor Kenneth Lasch of Pompton Plains, N.J., told the Globe that O’Malley’s secretary had “dismissed” his written concerns in January that a current priest in the Diocese of Paterson allegedly had seduced an 18-year-old man from Lasch’s parish in the mid-1980s.
On Friday, the Archdiocese of Boston announced that, in a policy change, the cardinal now reviews “all letters that come to his office related to the commission or are abuse-related, even if they address matters outside his authority.”