Gary Bishop Removes Monsignor over Sex Abuse during the 1960s
Priest Has Admitted Committing Misconduct with Minor, Statement from Diocese Says.
By Ken Kusmer
Indianapolis Star [Indiana]
December 22, 2003
A Roman Catholic priest in northwest Indiana has been removed from priestly ministry over sexual misconduct with a minor while he was assigned to the cathedral of the Gary Diocese more than 30 years ago.
Monsignor Don Grass admitted he committed the abuse, which occurred while he was an associate pastor at Holy Angels Cathedral in Gary in the late 1960s, Bishop Dale J. Melczek said in a statement distributed Saturday night.
After the victim made the allegation, the bishop's top aide for sexual misconduct cases, Kenneth Flanagan, and two other members of the Diocesan Response Team "met with the victim and judged the allegations to be credible."
"The same three Response Team members also met with Monsignor Grass, who while manifestly repentant, admitted that the allegations were true. There is no evidence of further sexual misconduct by Monsignor Grass," the statement said.
No further details of the misconduct, including the age and gender of the victim, were disclosed.
Grass, a Wisconsin native who grew up in Whiting and was ordained in 1961, had been pastor of St. Mary Catholic Church in Crown Point, a parish of 1,775 families, since 1983.
Telephone calls to the church went unanswered Saturday night, and Grass could not be reached for comment. A spokesman for the diocese, Brian Olszewski, said he did not know where Grass has been staying since his removal last week.
Grass' removal for sexual misconduct with a minor is the first in the four-county Gary Diocese since the U.S. Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandal broke nearly two years ago, Olszewski said. Melczek in early January is expected to release the number of sexual abuse cases in the four-county diocese since it was formed in 1957 out of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese.
Melczek met with the victim and Grass. He spoke at a Mass on Saturday night and was scheduled to do so at four Masses on Sunday and in a meeting with parishioners.
"I want to be with you during this time of crisis, and I invite you to join me in praying for the victim, for Monsignor Grass, and for your parish," the statement quoted Melczek as saying in remarks prepared for the Masses.
The Gary Diocese has about 187,000 Catholics and about 125 active priests.
Evansville Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger announced Thursday that accusers had raised 22 cases of sexual misconduct against 15 priests in that diocese since it was created in 1944, but three of the priests had been found not guilty. A week earlier, Fort Wayne-South Bend Bishop John M. D'Arcy reported that 16 priests in that diocese had sexually abused 33 children since 1950.
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