Diocese Strips Placa of Duties
By Rita Ciolli
Bishop William Murphy yesterday stripped Msgr. Alan Placa, the former vice chancellor of the Diocese of Rockville Centre and a key player in the handling of abuse complaints against priests, of his right to function as a priest. Murphy said he took the action immediately after being notified by the Nassau district attorney's office that Placa was under investigation for sexual abuse.
"This afternoon we got word from Denis Dillon that Richard Tollner has made an allegation about Alan Placa," said Murphy in Dallas, where he is attending the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. "I have taken Alan Placa's faculties away like everyone else against whom an allegation is made."
That means Placa, who stepped down in April as vice chancellor, can no longer say Mass, hear confessions or deliver any of the other sacraments.
In past interviews, Placa, who is on a leave of absence after his removal in April from the diocese's review board for priestly misconduct, has denied any sexual misconduct. His current whereabouts are not known, and he could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Tollner, 43, who is now a mortgage broker in Albany, went public with the charge that Placa fondled him as a teenager in a lengthy Newsday story on June 3. The story detailed how Placa allegedly handled complaints about abusive priests, transferring some of the troubled priests to other parishes after treatment. Victims who had contacted Placa about abusive priests said they were not told that Placa was also serving as the bishop's lawyer.
Tollner was one of two men who has said Placa abused them 25 years ago at St. Pius X Preparatory Seminary in Uniondale. He said yesterday that he was first contacted by Dillon's office the day the story appeared. He said he had not heard again from the Nassau district attorney's office until yesterday, after he had already made arrangements to appear next week before a Suffolk County grand jury investigating the diocese's handling of abuse cases.
Tollner said he was told the Nassau investigation "was going beyond the scope of sex abuse and into financial irregularities."
Rick Hinshaw, a spokesman for the district attorney, declined to discuss the scope of the investigation, but said the district attorney contacted Tollner after the Newsday story was published. He said that on Wednesday his office notified the diocese in writing "that when contacted, Tollner made a complaint against Placa."
Michael Hess, an attorney who is a longtime friend of the priest, said last night that he did not know Placa's whereabouts. "I don't know anything about it," he said.
Placa, a childhood friend of former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani who became well-connected with most influential figures of the church on Long Island, was ordained in 1970. He served as a parish priest in Glen Cove before being assigned to teach at St. Pius.
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