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  Eview Board Allows Priest to Resume Ministry
He Had Been Accused of Inappropriate Contact with Children in 1980s

By William Lamb
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri)
April 25, 2003

A Catholic priest in the Diocese of Belleville who had been accused of inappropriate contact with children in the late 1980s will return to active ministry on Monday after seven months on administrative leave, church officials said Thursday.

The decision to allow the Rev. Daniel L. Friedman to return as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Aviston followed a review this week by the diocese's Fitness Review Board, said Monsignor James Margason, a diocesan spokesman.

Margason said that Bishop Wilton D. Gregory put Friedman on administrative leave in September, just three months after the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted a "zero tolerance" policy on child sexual abuse.

Vatican officials protested that the American policy denied priests due process. In November, a committee of Vatican officials and American bishops drafted a new policy that defines sexual abuse more narrowly and calls for more extensive review of a priest's case before disciplinary action can be taken.

"The review board used that (new) definition to look at the old allegations and agreed that Father Friedman should be returned to active ministry," Margason said.

The allegations against Friedman stem from the 1980s, when he was a chaplain at a summer camp for children in Ozark, Ill. Friedman was accused of acting inappropriately as he helped children into loincloths for a camp ceremony where the children dressed as American Indians.

Friedman could not be reached for comment. In a statement distributed by the diocese, he said he was "very glad to be returning to ministry and to St. Francis Parish. I am deeply grateful for all the prayers and support I have received over the past months."

David Clohessy, national director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said Thursday that he was troubled by Gregory's decision to reinstate Friedman.

"It's disturbing because he's been accused multiple times," Clohessy said. "And despite promises of openness by church officials, they give very vague explanations for why they've taken this step."

Last June, a woman who accused Friedman of fondling her during counseling sessions dropped a $100,000 sexual battery suit she had filed against him in circuit court in Belleville.

 
 

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