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  Priest Cleared of Sexual Misconduct Allegations

By Matthew Artz
Daily Planet [Berkeley CA]
May 24, 2005

Father George Crespin returned to the pulpit Sunday, two days after Oakland Diocese officials cleared him on charges that he sexually molested a boy more than 30 years ago.

In a letter handed out to parishioners Sunday, Bishop of Oakland Allen Vigneron wrote that a diocese review board found the available evidence "insufficient to support the allegation made against Father Crespin."

Diocese officials were not available Monday to answer whether the accuser, whose identity the diocese has withheld, would have the opportunity to appeal the ruling.

According to parishioners, Father Crespin, 69, told those at mass on Sunday that he was overwhelmed by their support and prayers.

"It was just jubilation," said Sharon Girard, who attended the mass. "We all believed in him. I never doubted him for a moment."

In February, the diocese placed Crespin on administrative leave while it investigated an accusation from a man who said Crespin sexually abused him in 1984, while Crespin was a priest at Our Lady of the Rosary in Union City.

Crespin, who has been assigned to Berkeley's St. Joseph the Worker since 1980, abruptly retired, but maintained his innocence in a letter that was given to parishioners earlier this year.

"Since I know the person making this accusation, I am firmly convinced that this is being done to get money from the church," he wrote.

During the investigation, Father Crespin continued to live at the residence at St. Joseph and meet with parishioners, Girard said. In his new role as Pastor Emeritus, Crespin will continue to lead several services until a permanent replacement is found.

Although, Crespin's name has been cleared, the Oakland Diocese, which serves Alameda and parts of Contra Costa counties, as of February still had 44 pending cases of sexual misconduct against clergymen. In the case of Crespin, the charge was too dated for criminal charges to be filed, although if the accusation had been substantiated, the diocese could have been liable for monetary damages.

Crespin, who was ordained in 1962, has served for 25 years at St. Joseph, which has been a hotbed of liberal Catholic theology. Like his longtime colleague and predecessor as pastor, Father Bill O'Donnell, Crespin championed the cause of the poor, and as the child of Mexican immigrants, he has been especially active with local Latino groups.

 
 

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