BELLEFONTE, Del. (WTXF) - A terrible first in the state of Delaware has occurred. A former Catholic priest faces charges of raping a child.
The big stone church known as Saint Helena Parish dominates the neighborhood in the tiny Delaware community of Bellefonte.
Mass is heard daily here and social events are held. However, there is sorrow and anger over 76-year-old John Sarro in the community.
“Anytime you mess with a minor, you get what you deserve. He’s an animal as far as I’m concerned,” said Bob Cannon.
Sarro was priest at Saint Helena in the 1990’s.
According to a New Castle County Grand Jury indictment, he had “sexual intercourse” with a girl under 16 in the early ‘90’s.
Sarro was also charged with “touching the teenager’s breasts.”
Despite a long history of sexual abuse claims made against priests here, Sarro is the first to be criminally charged.
“They should be charged and they should pay the consequences that go with that type of act,” said Tabither Madden.
Sarro was first named as a sex abuser of minors in 2006 when Bishop Michael Saltarelli of the Wilmington Diocese publicly released the names of 20 credibly accused priests.
A wave of legal claims by abuse victims followed, driving the Diocese into bankruptcy and forcing it to pay a stunning 74-million dollars to victims.
A spokesperson for the Diocese declined to comment, but in a statement said Sarro’s alleged victim came to them in 2011 to report her abuse.
The Diocese claims it urged her to go to law enforcement.
The Diocese writes:
“…it admires survivors of clergy sexual abuse who courageously come forward and report the abuse to civil authorities…”
Sarro now lives in a facility for the elderly on the church’s dime.
“The pain never goes away. That victim remembers and I know the priest remembers as well. He was waiting for this day. His day has come,” Cannon explained.