Priest Removed from Ministry
Holy Cross Apologizes for Peters' Actions
By Margaret Fosmoe
South Bend Tribune [South Bend IND]
Downloaded May 8, 2003
SOUTH BEND -- The Rev. Samuel J. Peters, the Holy Cross priest fired as a University of Notre Dame residence hall rector for sexual misconduct, has been removed from public ministry.
Peters remains a priest and a member of the Congregation of Holy Cross, but he will not be permitted to resume ministry in the immediate future, the congregation announced Wednesday.
The religious order also publicly apologized for Peters' actions, expressing regret "for the betrayal of the trust that the People of God place in those whom we ordain for sacred duty," according to a written statement from the Rev. Robert L. Epping, assistant provincial and vicar for the congregation.
Peters will not be able to celebrate Mass in public, act as a spiritual counselor or perform any other form of ministry in the immediate future, Epping said. Peters is permitted to wear a clerical collar.
The religious order will get appropriate assessment and professional help for Peters before deciding whether he may eventually return to ministry, Epping said.
Peters, who was ordained last September, was fired last Thursday as rector of Sorin Hall, a men's residence hall at Notre Dame, for engaging in an inappropriate sexual relationship with an adult woman, the congregation said.
The Holy Cross order and Notre Dame administrators declined to reveal whether the woman involved is a student. The religious order and the university indicated they will honor the request of the woman and her family not to reveal her identity or details of the situation.
Congregation leaders learned of the allegation against Peters last week, Epping said, and worked cooperatively with Notre Dame officials in investigating the matter.
"With the university, we have been looking into finding out as much about the situation as possible," Epping said in a telephone interview.
He declined to say where Peters is staying. Notre Dame administrators have indicated the priest is no longer on campus.
If there is any reason for civil authorities to conduct an investigation, the congregation will cooperate, Epping said.
There is no indication a criminal investigation will occur. The inappropriate sexual relationship involved a female who was not a minor, Epping said.
The Tribune has not been able to reach Peters for comment. He did not respond to an e-mail request for an interview.
Students in Sorin Hall have expressed shock and surprise at Peters' firing and the reason for it.
The priest also is quite well known in the South Bend community.
Peters taught at St. Joseph's High School in South Bend and served at both Christ the King Catholic Church in South Bend and St. Pius X in Granger. He also had served as director of retreats for Campus Ministry.
A group of alumni recently contacted Notre Dame administrators to request detailed information about how the university handles cases of alleged clergy sexual misconduct. The alumni group, which calls itself the Discussion Group for the Prevention of Sexual Abuse at Notre Dame, wants an independent review panel established to investigate such cases.
The group has asked administrators for specific details about how many cases of clergy misconduct have been reported and whether such information is shared between the university and the Congregation of Holy Cross.
The revelation of Peters' misconduct, along with child molestation allegations made public last year involving the Rev. Paul LeBrun, demonstrate that procedures in place at the university and the order are not enough, according to the alumni discussion group.
LeBrun is a Holy Cross priest who served at Little Flower Catholic Church in South Bend in the 1980s and 1990s. At least four men claim LeBrun sexually molested them while they were children or young teens. No criminal charges have been filed against LeBrun.
The Peters case "says even more why there needs to be an independent investigation and there needs to be not just university and Holy Cross officials investigating," said John Michael Vore, an Indianapolis resident and a member of the alumni discussion group.
University administrators have not answered the questions the alumni group submitted in March. This week, the group requested a meeting in June with the Rev. Edward A. Malloy, university president.
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