Priest quit church after admitting having photos of teenage girl

A prominent Catholic priest in Auckland regrets the "silly mistake" that forced him to leave the church, after he admitted possessing semi-nude photos of a girl under 16.

Sosefo Sateki Raass was parish priest of St Mary's, in Mt Albert, but was convicted in March 2019 of indecent communication with a person under 16.

Stuff reports Raass was told to serve 100 hours of community service for his offending.

He was not placed on the sex offenders' register.

Raass had been considered a rising star of the church, was principal priest of the Auckland Fijian community and was also the celebrant at Japanese rugby international Amanaki Mafi's wedding.

It's understood a relative complained to police after a 15 year old girl sent semi-nude selfies to Raass over Facebook. 

Raass claimed he hadn't solicited the photos from the girl, and hadn't realised her age. He said he pleaded guilty to "get it out of the way, I didn't want to hang on and waste time."

He agreed it had ruined his career. "It did, yes, but I have to let it go. It was a silly mistake but.. We all make mistakes…. I believe things happen for a reason."

Raass has left the priesthood and is now in a relationship with a woman with whom he shares a West Auckland home.

After he was convicted, reporting his case was delayed because his lawyer, Steve Bonnar QC, successfully opposed applications from Stuff to read the court file which detailed his offending.

​Bonnar told Stuff his client hadn't made enquiries of the victim's age and believed she was over 16. But he said that was "no defence to the charge".

"There were inappropriate wasn't a situation of grooming," Bonnar said. 

After leaving the priesthood, Raass became a director and shareholder of a memorials business, but he said that venture hadn't worked out and he was now employed in a family business.