A Dutch priest who was arrested in Siem Reap City last week after allegedly taking more than 1,000 photographs of naked boys had told a bishop in his home country about his “sexual preference for underage boys,” church representatives said on Sunday.
Evrard-Nicolas Sarot, 53, was charged with possessing and producing child pornography by the Siem Reap Provincial Court on Thursday and is accused of paying 19 boys, all under the age of 15, a few dollars each to pose nude for photos.
Chhay Haklong, deputy chief of the provincial police’s anti-human trafficking unit, said last week that 19 victims—who appeared in some of the roughly 1,300 photos on a camera found on Mr. Sarot at the time of his arrest—had been interviewed by police. Unidentified victims also appeared in nearly 4,000 images later found on the suspect’s laptop, he said.
It has now emerged that Mr. Sarot had confessed to his sexual interest in young boys to a senior member of the Catholic church while he was training to be a priest.
Despite this, he was ordained and became a parish priest at the Old Catholic Church of the Netherlands in Culemborg from 2004 to 2013, before working as a priest at the Netherlands’ main international airport, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, according to the church.
The Bishop of Haarlem, Rev. Dirk Jan Schoon—who has authority over Mr. Sarot—had “suspended him with immediate effect both as an airport pastor at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and as a licensed minister in the diocese of Haarlem, pending further developments,” according to a statement on the church’s website dated Thursday.
It added that “no previous signals had…given rise to suspicions of sexual abuse by priest Sarot,” but bishops at a press conference on Friday conceded that Mr. Sarot had told a bishop about his “sexual preference for underage boys” during his priesthood training 18 years ago. Miranda Konings-Roobol, general secretary of the Old Catholic Church of the Netherlands, on Sunday identified the bishop Mr. Sarot confided in as the Rev. Joris Vercammen, who is now the Archbishop of Utrecht.
Frank Duivenvoorde, president of the Culemborg church, also confirmed on Sunday in an email that Mr. Sarot “did inform the bishop about his sexual orientation before his ordination,” in an email, adding that there had been no evidence of the young priest acting on his desires.
“Mr. Sarot got the advice to seek psychological help for his problem and was especially monitored by two older priests of the church,” he said.
Mr. Duivenvoorde said Mr. Sarot had frequently worked with children during his time at the church and that there had been no reported cases of child abuse.
“Mr. Sarot had excellent qualities to do youth work and was therefore asked many times,” he said.
“He was loved by the people and was an excellent priest who did a lot of good things during the time he worked in the parish,” he added.
Ms. Konings-Roobol said that “the Old Catholic Church took necessary precautions to prevent him [Mr. Sarot] from working with children on his own. In situations where he was in contact with children there were always other adults present.”
Mr. Duivenvoorde appeared to imply that Mr. Sarot had not abused children until he was out of his own country.
“Probably…he made a distinction in his functioning as a teacher in a primary school and as a parish priest, and what he did as a private person in a country far away,” he said.
When asked for clarification on Mr. Sarot’s role teaching at a primary school, Mr. Duivenvoorde stopped responding to emails at this point.
Liz van Velzen, a spokeswoman for Dutch anti-child exploitation NGO Terre des Hommes, said on Sunday that investigations into Mr. Sarot in the Netherlands were ongoing, and that her organization was still waiting for prosecutors to share information.