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  S.l. Bishop to Remove 3 Priests; Niederauer Cites Sex Incidents; S.l. Bishop to Remove Priests for Sex Incidents

By Peggy Fletcher Stack
Salt Lake Tribune (Utah)
June 12, 2002

Two days before the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops tackles a policy on clergy sex abuse, Bishop George Niederauer announced that three unnamed priests no longer will be allowed to serve in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City because of sexual misconduct with minors.

Niederauer said Tuesday that although each man underwent treatment for a single case of abuse many years ago and has had no allegations against him since, "someone guilty of misconduct in the past should not remain active in priestly ministry."

The three Utah priests soon will leave their present assignments and will not be reassigned, said Niederauer, who helped draft a policy on sex abuse at the center of this week's meeting of bishops in Dallas.

The Salt Lake Tribune has learned that one priest will be required to retire early, another forced to resign, and the third will be ordered out of the diocese.

"There is no room in the priesthood for those who abuse the young," said Niederauer, quoting Pope John Paul II.

In response to the escalating abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, which already has dismissed 225 of the nation's more than 46,000 priests, Niederauer undertook a review of records and past decisions regarding the 400 Utah priests since 1950.

"To the best of my knowledge during that time, eight priests have been accused of sexual abuse of minors by nine victims," he said. "There are no allegations of misconduct more recent than nine years ago. Some date as far back as 19 years."

Niederauer declined to name the priests out of respect for the wishes of victims, he said, but claimed the diocese had "always advised victims of their right to go public."

"We have never urged them to keep quiet," he said. "That's a decision they need to make on their own."

Niederauer also reminded that some priests leave active ministry "for reasons entirely unrelated to abuse of minors." Two recently asked for leaves of absence for "personal vocational concerns."

The Rev. William Kastner and the Rev. Gerald Lynch voluntarily resigned from the priesthood on June 1, according to The Intermountain Catholic, the diocesan newspaper.

"It would be a grave injustice to associate them with the present scandal," he said.

The other five Utah priests already had been relieved of priestly responsibilities in the 200,000-member diocese because of earlier allegations. Of the five, one was disciplined this year.

Niederauer said there are no lawsuits pending against the diocese, no financial settlements have been sought or made with victims, and no secrecy agreements offered or made with victims.

The names of all eight were reported to Utah Child Protective Services, he said, even when the allegation concerned an action so far in the past that such reporting was not required.

Citing confidentiality rules, Janina Chilton, a spokeswoman for the Utah Department of Human Services, could not confirm whether her agency had received the priest abusers' names.

There are no criminal investigations against any Utah priest, said Kent Morgan, assistant Salt Lake County attorney.

Three cases were made public in the past decade.

The Rev. James Rapp, who taught at Judge Memorial High School in Salt Lake City from 1968 to 1972, is currently serving time for sex abuse in an Oklahoma jail, said Monsignor Terrence Fitzgerald, the diocese's vicar general. There were no allegations against Rapp while he lived in Utah, but two victims did emerge after he left. One came forward in November 2000 and a second allegation was leveled in April 2002.

"We offered counseling to both victims," Fitzgerald said. "They asked for no financial assistance and didn't want any publicity."

Two other Utah priests were accused of abuse but not prosecuted. The Rev. Lawrence Spellen had retired before the accusations surfaced and is living in southern California. The Rev. Raymond Devlin, a Jesuit, was removed from the diocese and given new assignments that do not involve contact with children.

Fitzgerald said the Utah diocese has been vigilant on sex abuse cases.

"Bishops are getting the blame for reassigning priests, but it's really vicar generals who deal with personnel," said Fitzgerald. "I monitor it very carefully. I can live with bad decisions honestly made, but I am appalled at the cover-up of these cases by some bishops. There is no justification for it whatsoever."

 
 

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