A letter informing Fenton's current church about his charges has been sent to Australia and his extradition to Pennsylvania is being pursued.
Trigger Warning: The following story contains details of sexual abuse that might be disturbing for readers.
A 52-year-old youth pastor from Pennsylvania is being charged with sexually assaulting a teenage girl.
Robert Fenton allegedly convinced Vine Church in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, to let him marry a girl who was just 14-year-old at the time. Fenton was 26 and said that he had to marry the child because "God Wanted it," per Comic Sands. He was able to convince the Church to let him get "betrothed to" the child, whose identity has been kept anonymous. He also said their age gap was the same as Joseph and Mary.
The church allowed this marriage with a condition that Fenton will not engage in any sexual relationship with the minor, according to the court documents. However, he continued to sexually assault the victim from 1996 to 1998, reports Fox 56. The church said it had no idea that this relationship had turned sexual and involved assault. The victim's parents also supported this marriage but admitted that Fenton "pushed the boundaries" even in the 6-month "no contact" period when they both only communicated through letters.
I took on the Catholic Church and uncovered decades of abuse that spanned from dioceses in Pennsylvania to the Vatican.— Josh Shapiro (@JoshShapiroPA) April 27, 2022
I’m still fighting back against child abuse and holding accountable those who use their power and authority to perpetuate it.https://t.co/NbtZ31H019
The marriage was called off after Fenton contracted pancreatitis and he blamed the victim for his illness. He left the church and moved to a new church in the Queensland area of Australia. However, the victim, now in her 40s, reported to the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) that Fenton had sexually abused her for two years. Following a referral by the Bradford County DA's Office, the Office of the Attorney General and PSP began investigating the matter in July 2021.
As Attorney General, my office uncovered decades of sexual abuse perpetrated by predator priests that spanned from dioceses in Pennsylvania all the way to the Vatican.— Josh Shapiro (@JoshShapiroPA) May 2, 2022
We fought to give survivors a voice — and we've continued fighting for justice every day since.
After leaving the religious community and seeking treatment for the trauma caused by Fenton's abuse, the victim approached police authorities. They interviewed church leaders and other members of the community to investigate the matter. Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced that Fenton is being charged with statutory sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, indecent assault, and related charges. Shapiro also said that a letter informing Fenton's current church about his charges has been sent to Australia and his extradition to Pennsylvania is being pursued.
Shapiro further said, "The defendant used his power and authority in his religious community to lie, manipulate and regularly abuse a young girl in his community. I promised we would hold anyone who was abusing children accountable – and Robert Fenton is no exception."
Cover Image Source: WETM 18 News/Youtube