Catholic Priest's Move to Oregon Draws Protests
Sex Abuse - a Church Review Board in Texas Cleared a Priest Now Assigned to John Day
By Ashbel S. Green
April 1, 2006
Eastern Oregon Roman Catholic officials came under fire Friday after advocates for child sex-abuse victims discovered a 25-year-old accusation against a priest who used to work in Texas.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) issued a statement protesting the assignment of the Rev. Richard Edelin to St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church in John Day.
The statement disclosed that Edelin was accused of sexually abusing a teenage girl in Houston in the early 1980s. It also said that the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston paid $5,000 to the accuser in 1996 and issued an apology.
A church review board cleared Edelin to return to the ministry, but David Clohessy, national director of the network, defended the decision to draw public attention to the accusation.
"If we have to err, we have to err on the side of children's safety," Clohessy said.
Monsignor Frank H. Rossi, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, said church officials agreed to the payment after the woman asked for money to help pay for therapy. Church officials did not admit wrongdoing, which Edelin denied.
Nearly a decade later, Edelin's case went before a church review board, one of the reforms adopted by U.S. Catholic bishops in 2002 in response to growing reports of priest abuse and church attempts to hide it.
The board, which includes a former judge, former law enforcement officials and sex abuse victims, "could not substantiate" the accusation, Rossi said.
As a result, Edelin was cleared to return to the ministry in the archdiocese, but his accuser publicly criticized the move in 2003.
Edelin has not been accused of sexual abuse by anyone else, Rossi said.
The Rev. James P. Logan, chancellor and judicial vicar of the Baker Diocese, said Edelin came to work in Oregon about a year ago. Edelin knew Bishop Robert F. Vasa, who leads the Eastern Oregon diocese, from seminary, Logan said.
Before assigning Edelin to a parish, Vasa submitted the case to Baker's sex-abuse review board. Then he assigned Edelin to Our Lady of Angels Church in Hermiston, where the staff -- but not parishioners -- were aware of the accusation.
After what Vasa considered a successful period of supervision, the bishop reassigned Edelin to John Day effective next week, Logan said.
Vasa believed under the circumstances that Edelin had "a right to privacy and a right to a good name and a presumption of innocence until proven otherwise," Logan said.
Vasa had not planned to tell parishioners in John Day but would do so because of the recent publicity.
Clohessy stuck by his decision to bring attention to the accusation against Edelin.
"We're not presuming he's guilty. We're simply saying that Catholics need to know and deserve to know his past," Clohessy said.
Ashbel "Tony" Green: 503-221-8202; firstname.lastname@example.org
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