An American Catholic priest has been charged with soliciting sex with underage boys while in the Philippines, according to federal prosecutors.
Rev. Kenneth Bernard Hendricks, 77, of Cincinnati, is charged with engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places, according to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of Ohio. Hendricks was arrested Dec. 5 in the Philippines, where he was serving as a missionary priest.
At least 10 alleged victims have been identified, according to NBC News. Hendricks is being held in a Manila jail.
The Archdiocese of Cincinnati said in a statement following Hendricks’ arrest that the priest was ordained while overseas and has never been a priest under the archdiocese’s purview.
“Although not a priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Fr. Hendricks is listed on our website as a Catholic missionary serving in Asia,” the statement from the Archdiocese said. “He is one of around 75 missionaries from Southwest Ohio who receive some financial support from the Mission Office of the Archdiocese. None of these individuals work for, or take direction from, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.”
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Archdiocese officials said they are cooperating fully with the Department of Justice and Homeland Security investigators. They urged anyone with information about the rogue priest to call Homeland Security at 513-246-1461.
“The abuse of children or any vulnerable person is abhorrent and needs to be prosecuted,” the statement said.
Hendricks came under suspicion Nov. 13, when Homeland Security officials received information regarding the sexual exploitation of several minor Filipino boys, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Benjamin C. Glassman. The information alleged that a Catholic priest, later identified as Hendricks, had been sexually assaulting the boys, several of whom had been identified and were cooperating with police in the Philippines.
According to the boys, the abuse included anal and oral sex, as well as mutual masturbation, the news release said. The alleged abuse occurred dozens of times and involved boys as young as 7 years old.
“Hendricks allegedly had a number of minor boys residing with him,” the news release said. “It is alleged he insisted they take baths together and would molest the victims alone or with other boys. The priest allegedly warned the victims that if they told anyone they would all go to prison.”
Glassman said one conversation between Hendricks and a victim was recorded.
“This will probably be the scenario is, there will be a meeting and then it will be decided, you know, what your parents want to do about anything,” Hendricks said in the recording. “Do they want to try … want to press charges, uh, whatever see, but that’s between them and the Bishop. I have nothing to do with that. I just get the fallout afterwards.”
He further said in the conversation that the boy’s parents would ask him if he wanted a case to move forward of if he preferred a settlement.
“But as far as after that, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I really will have to probably really resign, retire now,” Hendricks said, according to the news release.
Read the affidavit in support of charges against Cincinnati priest Kenneth Hendricks below. Warning: Details of the allegations against the 77-year-old are graphic.
The criminal complaint has been sealed by a federal judge, but a redacted affidavit in support of the complaint provides further detail of the allegations against Hendricks, who was the parish priest in Naval, the capital of the province of Biliran.
The affidavit, which often grows graphic with details of repeated sexual assaults, states that two of Hendricks’ alleged victims gave sworn statements Nov. 6 to the Philippine National Police. One young man said the abuse began in 2009, when he was 12 and serving as a sacristan at the church.
The victim, who is now 22, said the abuse began when Hendricks kissed him on the lips one day as he cleaned the church. He said he also witnessed Hendricks inappropriately touching other young boys who lived with the priest.
The man, who said he felt he had no choice, ended up moving in with the priest, who financed his education and helped his family. All the while, Hendricks was secretly molesting him, both alone and with other boys, the affidavit says.
Hendricks often insisted the boy take a bath with him, the document reads.
The young man told investigators that, at 15, he contracted a sexually transmitted disease from Hendricks. After being treated for it, he refused to have any additional sexual contact with the priest, the affidavit says.
The affidavit goes over statements made by multiple other victims, whose names are redacted. It also reveals that the recorded conversation mentioned in Glassman’s news release was between Hendricks and the man whose abuse began in 2009.
The recording was made in November, once the allegations against Hendricks were taken to law enforcement.
During that conversation, Hendricks admitted sexually abusing several boys, the affidavit says. At one point, he tells his alleged victim that “happy days are gone, it’s all over.”
“But the kids, but the kids Father is telling the truth? They are telling everything about you, Father?” the man says.
“Well, that’s, it’s true. I’m not saying it’s not. Did I say it’s not? It happened,” Hendricks says.
The alleged victim again asks Hendricks if he admits to having sex with boys.
“It’s already blottered, you put it on a blotter,” Hendricks responds. “Will I lie? It was a mistake on my part. Should have known better than trying to just have a life.
“That’s why you make mistakes. You have to learn from them, so I have to learn.”
NBC News reported that, along with the U.S. charges, Hendricks is also being charged by authorities in the Philippines.
“Our reach in this case is global,” Glassman told the news network. “If someone commits a crime with any connection to the Southern District of Ohio, we can work with other agents for a global reach.”
Hendricks faces 30 years in prison if convicted of the U.S. charges.