Priest Once Accused of Possessing Nude Photos of Boys Steps down
By Betsy Taylor
January 11, 2007
St. Louis -- A Roman Catholic priest once accused of possessing nude photos of boys in Washington state is leaving his pastoral assignment in St. Louis for personal reasons, the Archdiocese of St. Louis said Thursday.
The Rev. Darell Mitchell was in Yakima, Wash., in 2003 when he was accused of having nude pictures of boys on his computer. No charges were ever filed.
Monsignor John Ecker, Vicar General for Yakima's diocese, said Mitchell left his Missouri post "just because he's been hounded so much." He said allegations had been thoroughly investigated in the past, no legal action was taken, and church officials believe Mitchell fit for ministry.
Ecker said the priest would go to his mother's home for a time, but declined to specify where he would be staying.
The Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, has in recent weeks - and as recently as Thursday - protested his reassignment to two St. Louis-area parishes. SNAP leaders said it was wrong of the archdiocese and Archbishop Raymond Burke not to tell parishioners of Mitchell's "questionable past," especially since he was serving at a parish that includes an elementary school.
"Children here are safer now, but Archbishop Burke should have removed him, never allowed him here and still owes Catholics an explanation for his secrecy and recklessness," said David Clohessy, SNAP's national director.
Mitchell told The Associated Press last month he was falsely accused. A message left for him Thursday was not returned.
The St. Louis archdiocese said in a statement that Mitchell's background had been evaluated before he began serving in Missouri, and Burke found him suited for ministry in a parish.
The statement said Yakima's bishop signed a certificate saying there was nothing in Mitchell's background that raised questions about his fitness for ministry. Archdiocese communications director Anne Steffens said the archdiocese had no comment beyond the statement.
The accusations against Mitchell in Washington prompted an investigation by the FBI and other law enforcement, in addition to an internal investigation by the church.
Mitchell lived in the St. Louis Archdiocese for two years. The archdiocese said Mitchell first served at St. Joseph Church in Clayton. In June, he became associate pastor at St. Ambrose in St. Louis, a parish that includes an elementary school.
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