Ex-priest sentenced to 15 months in prison for molestation of minor with cancer

Courtroom ruling gavel Credit Billion Photos  Shutterstock Billion Photos / Shutterstock.

A former priest was sentenced to 15 months in prison this week for molesting an Ohio minor suffering from cancer. 

The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office announced the indictment of Luis Barajas in November of last year. 

Barajas had been “acting in the capacity of a retired priest” when he “went to the victim’s residence” in order to “give her a blessing before her chemotherapy treatment.” During the blessing, Barajas “inappropriately touched the victim under a blanket,” the office said. The girl was 15 years old at the time of the assault. 

Barajas subsequently pleaded guilty to the felony of gross sexual imposition. Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Andrew Santoli announced the 15-month sentence on Tuesday. Barajas received time served and will be in prison for just under a year. 

“You admitted to sexually assaulting a child, which in and of itself is an absolutely horrendous crime,” Santoli said during the sentencing, according to media reports

But Barajas further “took advantage” of the family’s need for a priest during a difficult time, Santoli said, “and that warrants a serious consequence.”

The Diocese of Harrisburg in a statement last year identified Barajas as a “laicized priest.” 

This is not the first time Barajas has been linked to inappropriate conduct toward minors. 

Pennsylvania’s 2018 grand jury report on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church claimed that a priest in Harrisburg in the late 1980s had relayed “allegations” regarding Barajas’ “associations with the youth of the parish.” He had been employed with the Office of the Vicar for the Spanish-Speaking People, according to the grand jury report.

Some parishioners had also allegedly relayed “accusations of child molestation” to the priest regarding Barajas, though the priest said he “questioned their credibility.”

Barajas subsequently returned to Colombia in 1989. The grand jury report said Harrisburg’s Monsignor Damian McGovern wrote to a Church official in Rome that “for many serious reasons, the life and ministry of Father Barajas proved to be most unsatisfactory and, accordingly, he was asked to terminate his association with the Diocese of Harrisburg.”

The report said the Archdiocese of New York subsequently reached out to the Harrisburg Diocese with an allegation of sexual misconduct regarding Barajas. The Diocese of Brooklyn subsequently “denied Barajas faculties,” the report said.

Our mission is the truth. Join us!

Your monthly donation will help our team continue reporting the truth, with fairness, integrity, and fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church.