|Accused Priest Is Cleared
The Rev. Patrick O'Connor, Formerly of the Falls, Reinstated after Panel Rejects Child Abuse Allegation
December 5, 2007
CLEVELAND: A former associate pastor at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Cuyahoga Falls has been reinstated as an active priest in the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, after being cleared of an allegation that he sexually abused a child in the late 1980s while assigned to the parish.
The Rev. Patrick O'Connor, who declined to comment Tuesday, was placed on leave on Sept. 3, 2003, after a diocesan review board determined that the allegation against him was credible enough to warrant a full investigation.
At the time of his suspension, he was preparing to begin his third year of teaching religious studies at Borromeo Seminary in Wickliffe.
The investigation into the allegation concluded that "no instance of sexual abuse of a minor had been established and that there were no factors shown that should prevent the return of Father O'Connor, 49, to priestly ministry that includes regular contact with children," according to information released by the diocese.
The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith reviewed the case and determined that O'Connor is free to exercise priestly ministry.
O'Connor was the first priest to be placed on leave after the predominantly lay review board was established in May 2003 to monitor the diocese's handling of sexual abuse allegations.
His reinstatement was the first in the diocese since the U.S. Catholic bishops adopted a zero-tolerance policy on abuse in 2002.
According to diocesan records, 21 priests have been placed on leave amid allegations of sexual abuse since the spring of 2002.
Some of the clerics have died; others have been placed in restrictive ministry.
To date, 11 priests remain on administrative leave, awaiting determinations on the allegations against them.
O'Connor is now chaplain to the Sisters of the Most Holy Trinity and chaplain to Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine, both in Euclid.
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