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  Accusations Made against Priest Rev. Dan Wetzler Removed from Ministry Amid Allegations of Sexual Misconduct with a Minor

By Kevin Taylor and Virginia de Leon
Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)
November 27, 2002

Spokane's Catholic Bishop William Skylstad on Tuesday announced that a recently retired priest has been temporarily removed from ministry after being accused of sexual misconduct with a minor.

The Rev. Dan Wetzler, who retired in early July after 10 years at St. Paschal's in the Spokane Valley, denies the charges, according to a press release issued by the diocese Tuesday.

The Rev. Steve Dublinski, vicar general of the Spokane Diocese, said in the press release that Skylstad took the action after conversations with both the accuser and Wetzler. The diocese didn't release any details about the allegation.

The case has been reported to Spokane police, the press release said.

Wetzler's removal from ministry didn't come as a surprise to several members of the local Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

His name was included in a list of priests kept by Molly Harding, one of the group's founders. Through interviews with victims, parishioners and attorneys, Harding says she has found 15 other priests and one diocesan employee who have been accused of sexual abuse but haven't been named by the Spokane Diocese.

Six of the 15 priests have been acknowledged by the diocese but haven't been named because they are dead. Wetzler's name was among the alleged perpetrators who are still alive.

Last month, Skylstad released the names of six other priests who have been accused of abuse.

The diocese this fall has turned over accusations of sexual abuse against 12 priests to Spokane police for investigation. Deputy Chief Al Odenthal has said that a detective and a detective sergeant have been assigned to review the cases, some going back decades, to see if any can be prosecuted.

The 64-year-old Wetzler, who is living in Harrison, Idaho, did not return telephone calls Tuesday. Dublinski also did not return telephone messages Tuesday night.

The diocese's sexual abuse review board will investigate the accusation, according to the press release, and Skylstad has promised to make public the review board's conclusions.

Wetzler has been a priest for 29 years, most of that time in or near Spokane. In addition to service at 10 Eastern Washington parishes, he was also a teacher at - and later assistant director of - Mater Cleri seminary at Colbert, was director of the Catholic Youth Organization for the diocese and was chaplain and head of the religion department at the now-closed Marycliff High School for girls in Spokane.

He has also been involved in charismatic church services, which allow for more personal expression of the Holy Spirit such as spontaneous singing and the laying on of hands for healing.

Harding and other members of the survivors network say they're hoping that Skylstad - who is also the vice president of the U.S. Conference of Bishops - will hold to his promise to keep children safe by removing abusers from ministry. Skylstad's actions Tuesday gave them hope, she said.

''These are the steps that will restore the bishop's credibility and will assure Catholics that their children are safe," Harding said.

 
 

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