Retired Priest Suspended over Sex-Abuse Allegations
By Dan Horn
March 15, 2006
The Archdiocese of Cincinnati suspended a retired priest Wednesday because of accusations he sexually abused a teenaged boy in the 1970s and early 1980s.
The Rev. Donald E. Shelander, a former teacher at Catholic Central High School in Springfield, now is barred from presiding at Mass or performing any other priestly duties.
Church officials said the alleged victim, now an adult, made the accusation late last year. They said a church investigator looked into the claim and found the allegations had a "semblance of truth," the standard needed to suspend a priest.
The case now will be investigated further to determine whether the Vatican should consider permanently removing Shelander from the priesthood.
Church spokesman Dan Andriacco said the accuser told church officials the abuse occurred when he was between 14 and 18 years old, while Shelander was pastor at St. Mary Parish in Urbana.
He said Shelander has denied the allegations.
Shelander, 69, is retired and could not be reached for comment.
Andriacco said he did not know whether the priest had been active in any parishes since his retirement or since the accusation was made last year.
The leader of a victims' advocacy group said Shelander should have been removed from ministry as soon as the accusation was made.
"That's a problem. That's proof that self-policing doesn't work," said Christy Miller, co-leader of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) in Cincinnati. "Obviously, they waited several months."
Andriacco said church officials immediately notify authorities and begin an investigation when an accusation is made. But he said national standards adopted by bishops require that they do at least some investigating before suspending a priest.
"We will not remove someone until there is reason to believe the allegation might be true," Andriacco said. He said the initial investigation determines only basic facts.
Andriacco said the church has notified the Champaign County prosecutor's office, but no one in that office could be reached late Wednesday.
Typically, prosecutors have been unable to pursue criminal investigations because the cases are so old the statute of limitations has expired.
Shelander is the 11th priest the archdiocese has suspended because of allegations of misconduct involving children. Five others have either been permanently removed from the priesthood or defrocked by the Vatican.
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