|Father George Crespin Returns to Ministry
By Barbara Erickson
June 6, 2005
Father George Crespin returned to active ministry on Saturday, May 21, after being cleared of charges of sexual abuse. Parishioners, staff and other supporters at St. Joseph the Worker in Berkeley gave him a warm and joyful reception.
Father Crespin had retired as pastor of the parish when Bishop Allen Vigneron informed him in early February that the diocese was undertaking a formal review of charges filed against him. From that time on, he was unable to celebrate Mass or perform other priestly duties.
During the 11 a.m. Spanish Mass May 23, parishioners applauded Father Crespin and reacted with joy to the news. He also expressed his relief and joy at returning to active ministry.
"We're very grateful that this process is completed," said Father Jayson Landeza, acting administrator at the parish. "We at St. Joseph had confidence that the process would exonerate him."
Father Landeza said the retired pastor planned to stay in residence at St. Joseph. Since Father Crespin was removed from ministry, the community has rallied around him and held a town hall meeting with diocesan representatives Feb. 15, where they expressed their grief at his sudden departure.
The community learned of the charges against Father Crespin and his sudden removal from ministry in an open letter the priest wrote and had distributed at Sunday Masses. The diocese was acting under the mandate of the U.S. bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which requires the removal of any priest or deacon who faces a charge of abuse.
Father Crespin said in his statement that the charges involved a young person "allegedly 30 years ago" when he was pastor at Our Lady of the Rosary in Union City. "The accusations are not true. I deny it," he wrote, adding that he was confident that his name would be cleared.
In a letter to Father Landeza, Bishop Vigneron said the diocesan investigation "was done with great care and thoroughness by the Review Board," and after assessing "all the available evidence," the board found the evidence "insufficient to support the allegation made against Father Crespin." He added that he accepts their findings and was returning Father Crespin "to his active ministry as a retired priest."
Father Landeza said the review board includes "at least one" abuse survivor. He also said it is important to demonstrate support for abuse survivors even as the charges against Father Crespin are rejected.
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