|Costa Removed from Priesthood
Action by Pope Benedict Cannot Be Appealed
By Chris Wetterich
November 17, 2007
Monsignor Eugene Costa has been removed from the priesthood by Pope Benedict XVI, Kathie Sass, a spokeswoman for the Springfield Catholic Diocese, confirmed Friday.
Costa, 57, the former pastor of St. John Vianney Church in Sherman and Holy Family Church in Athens, has been on leave since January 2005. His laicization came at the request of Springfield Bishop George Lucas, Sass said. Because the action came directly from Pope Benedict, it cannot be appealed.
Costa is not permitted to perform priestly ministries or call himself "father."
"Catholics believe the holy order leaves a permanent mark on the soul," Sass said. "In one sense, he will always be a priest. But this has removed him from the clerical state permanently."
Costa, chancellor of the Springfield diocese under former Bishop Daniel Ryan, was beaten by two young men in Douglas Park on Dec. 21, 2004.
He was subsequently said by the diocese to have engaged in "risky" and "inappropriate" behavior - he allegedly solicited the men for sex - which apparently played a role in the attack and prompted the investigation. Costa later was put on the leave of absence, and an investigation by former U.S. Attorney Bill Roberts found that Costa had been involved in sexual misconduct.
Lucas said in August 2006 that he was attempting to permanently remove Costa from being a priest. After being put on leave, Costa was sent to a center for troubled priests.
Sass declined to say where Costa is now, what his future plans are or to pass an interview request to Lucas. She said Costa still can be a practicing Catholic.
The news was first reported by Sass in the Nov. 18 issue of Catholic Times.
A Springfield native, Costa was ordained in Rome in July 1976 and was a priest in several parishes.
The last priest connected with Springfield to be removed from the clergy was Joseph Havey, who was removed by the pope in April 2006. Havey, who had not been a priest in more than 20 years, had been accused of sexual abuse of minors in the 1970s and '80s. Havey's victims were among 28 who split a $3 million settlement with the diocese in 2004.
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