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  Priest Cleared in Second Sexual Abuse Probe

By DeLano R. Massey
Belleville News-Democrat
April 25, 2003

Allegations of sexual abuse have been reviewed for the second time against an Aviston priest, and again he has been cleared to return to duty, Belleville Bishop Wilton D. Gregory announced Thursday.

The Rev. Daniel L. Friedman, 57, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, can return to public ministry Monday.

The Diocesan Fitness Review Board supplied Gregory with the recommendation to reinstate Friedman after a supplementary review of the allegation of sexual misconduct on Wednesday.

This was in light of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Youth adopted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in June. Gregory is president of the national group.

"I am very glad to be returning to ministry and to St. Francis Parish," Friedman said in a statement. "I am deeply grateful for all the prayers and support that I have received over these past months."

Friedman stepped down on Sept. 20 after he was informed by Gregory that he would be removed in connection with allegations of sexual abuse of boys at the church-run Camp Ondessonk, where he was a chaplain in the 1980s. Allegations include that he acted inappropriately while adjusting boys' loincloths during an American Indian ceremony at Camp Ondessonk.

The allegations were first raised about 15 years ago during the tenure of former Belleville Bishop James Keleher. The case was referred to the Diocesan Review Board after Gregory was assigned to the diocese in 1995. Friedman then became the only priest cleared by a diocesan review. But the new national abuse policy dictated his case be revisited.

"Unless something new is brought forward, this will bring closure to (the current allegations of sexual abuse)," said the Rev. James Margason, vicar general of the diocese.

Margason said that a number of people from the parish requested that Friedman be returned and "the (St. Francis Parish) congregation was not directly asked, but there should not be a problem with his return."

The Belleville Catholic Diocese has removed more than a dozen priests and one deacon since March 1993 for allegations of sexual abuse of a child or sexual misconduct.

David Clohessy, who heads the St. Louis-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the announcement of Friedman's reinstatement was disconcerting.

"Bishop Gregory pledged openness and transparency last summer in Dallas," said Clohessy, who referred to a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on priestly sexual abuse in June. "Essentially, they still use a secretive process and disclose virtually no information on how and why they made this decision. Ultimately, I hope the bishop doesn't end up regretting his decision or another innocent person gets hurt."

 
 

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