Priest under Cloud of Suspicion Gets New Post

By Jane Gargas
Yakima Herald-Republic
December 21, 2006

A Catholic priest who left Yakima in 2004 while under criminal investigation for allegedly viewing child pornography has been reassigned to a church in St. Louis.

According to the Catholic Diocese of Yakima, the priest has a supervised ministry as an associate pastor in a St. Louis parish.

Monsignor Ron Metha, speaking for Bishop Carlos Sevilla of Yakima, said in an e-mail Monday that the priest "was given that assignment by Archbishop Raymond Burke, the Archbishop of St. Louis, after Bishop Sevilla disclosed to him completely all of the events that led to (his) absence from the Diocese of Yakima."

The priest was assigned last June to a St. Louis parish, which has an elementary school.

No charges were ever filed in the case, and for that reason, the Yakima Herald-Republic has never identified the priest by name.

He worked as a priest in the diocese here for eight to 10 years, in at least three different parishes, before photographs of nude boys were found on his computer.

The FBI, the county prosecutor's office and the Diocesan Lay Advisory Board all investigated the incident. When Prosecutor Ron Zirkle decided not to press charges against the priest in 2005, he said that the case "did not meet federal or state statues for children in sexually explicit conduct."

Tony Huenneke, interim coordinator of communications for the Archdiocese of St. Louis, declined on Tuesday to talk on the record.

Huenneke issued a news statement later that day confirming that the former Yakima priest was working as an associate pastor in St. Louis.

Although Huenneke would not comment on whether parishioners will be notified of the incident in Yakima, he did note in the release that, "After careful evaluation of (the priest's) background, Archbishop Raymond Burke found him suited for parochial ministry in the Archdiocese of St. Louis and, with the permission of (Sevilla) gave (the priest) an assignment ..."


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