Group Wants Priest to Talk to Parishioners

By Jane Gargas
Yakima Herald-Republic
December 23, 2006

A local group is proposing that the Catholic Diocese of Yakima bring back a priest who left here two years ago amid controversy.

Voice of the Faithful, a Catholic reform group, issued a news release Friday saying that the priest in question deserves better treatment from the church.

The priest had been under criminal investigation for allegedly viewing child pornography while serving in Yakima. On Thursday, the Archdiocese of St. Louis announced that he is serving as an associate pastor at a church in St. Louis.

The parish has an elementary school.

Robert Fontana, coordinator of VOTF in Yakima, said the priest never should have been assigned to a parish with a school.

Fontana argued that the Catholic hierarchy no longer has the prerogative to return a priest to ministry without informing parents first that the priest had been looking at pictures of naked boys.

Instead, VOTF, which has about 30 members locally, believes Bishop Carlos Sevilla should invite the priest back to Yakima to address parishioners.

"Father could explain why he did what he did, comment on the counseling and medical help that he has been receiving and ask the good people of the parish to allow him to continue to serve as their priest," the VOTF release said.

The group noted that the priest shouldn't be left alone with minors but could continue to minister if the people of the church would allow it.

The alternative is simply continuing deception, the group argued.

"The priest lives in terror that he will be discovered, the church's credibility is shot and, most importantly, children aren't protected," the release said.

In a telephone interview, Fontana said the priest's

best interests haven't been considered.

"He's been bounced around like a pawn," he said.

The priest was in Yakima in 2003 when authorities investigated him after pictures of nude boys were found on a computer he used.

Despite investigations by the FBI, Yakima prosecutors and the church, he was never charged.

Because the VOTF news release arrived after business hours, the Yakima Herald-

Republic was unable to reach the Yakima diocese for comment.


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