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  Archbishop Says He's Powerless in Legal Flap over Nevada Priest

By Jim Suhr
Associated Press
September 10, 2004

ST. LOUIS (AP) - St. Louis' archbishop said Friday he has no authority to remove a former Nevada priest from a Missouri treatment center close to the home of a young man once sexually abused by the priest.

While saying he understood and sympathized with the victim's family, Archbishop Raymond Burke said Mark Roberts was being treated by court order at RECON, a Catholic-run residential center not under the archdiocese's control.

Beyond that, Burke said, "I acknowledge, too, RECON's 11-year successful history of housing priests and religious brothers who have committed sexual offenses and protecting society with the best security and safety available."

Roberts, 53, was removed from his position as pastor at St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church in Henderson, Nev., in February 2002 and pleaded guilty in January 2003 to lewdness and child abuse involving five teens. He was sentenced to three years of probation.

Authorities said Roberts subjected the boys to strange sexual rituals.

Last month, Clark County (Nev.) District Judge Donald Mosley took Roberts off formal probation and allowed him to move to RECON in Dittmer, about 40 miles southwest of St. Louis.

Burke said RECON serves priests and religious brothers "who cannot function in ministry for a variety of reasons, including sexual abuse of minors."

Mosley tried to place Roberts there last year, but Missouri probation-and-parole officials refused after groups protested that Roberts would be living too close to the victim now complaining about Roberts' proximity.

Since then, Mosley said officials with the Nevada Division of Parole and Probation have been unable to find a treatment center in a state willing to supervise Roberts while he served probation.

Mosley said he would monitor Roberts' progress with updates from the Missouri center, and that if Roberts behaves inappropriately "it is understood I can extradite him immediately."

Last week, the Roberts victim now living in Missouri spoke publicly, asking "why do I have to pay again and again and again?"

"I've made a home now and I'm starting to get my life back together," the 21-year-old man said, requesting that he not be identified. Roberts "can go somewhere else."

The victim's father called Roberts' Missouri presence "mentally cruel to my son."

On Friday, Burke said that at RECON, Roberts would be supervised and that Mosley would be updated, with Mosley having made clear he "has the power to extradite him back to Nevada, immediately" if Roberts missteps.

"I also respect Judge Mosley's order in this case and do not have the authority to challenge it," Burke said.

 
 

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