|Catholic Priest Returns to Ministry, Good Name Restored
January 17, 2008
Father Albert Gondek, a Catholic priest from the Diocese of Charlotte returns to ministry after being cleared of misconduct allegations.
Bishop Peter J. Jugis has returned Father Albert James Gondek to the position of Pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Lexington. Father Gondek resumed his duties on Sunday, December 23, 2007.
Father Gondek and Bishop Jugis will meet with members of the parish at the conclusion of the 10:30 am Mass on December 23rd to explain the process leading to the re-instatement.
Father Gondek was removed from ministry on October 12, 2007 under provisions of The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. At the time of his removal, he denied the allegation made against him.
Father Gondek was cleared of any wrongdoing after an investigation by his religious order, the Oblates of St. Francis DeSales (OSFS), and an inquiry by the Review Board of the Diocese of Charlotte. Bishop Jugis' decision came after reviewing the findings of both investigations.
"It is a great joy to return Father Al to ministry. The Diocese of Charlotte will make every effort to restore Father Gondek's good name and reputation," said Bishop Jugis. "While this case does not diminish the suffering that sexual abuse causes people in our society, it is proof that the system in our church works to protect everyone."
At the request of the Oblates, an allegation of sexual misconduct against Father Gondek was investigated by Chief Judge (retired) Joseph H. H. Kaplan of Baltimore, Maryland.
Judge Kaplan has no connection to the OSFS, the Diocese of Charlotte, the Roman Catholic Church or any of the parties involved.
Part of Judge Kaplan's investigation included a polygraph examination conducted by former F.B.I agent and forensic polygrapher Barry D. Colvert who reported that Fr. Gondek's answers had a high degree of reliability and were "not indicative of deception."
Judge Kaplan's investigation repudiates the claims made in an October 12th press conference by Wilmington, Delaware attorney Thomas S. Neuberger on behalf of 59-year-old Michael Sowden. Judge Kaplan reported that his attempts to interview Mr. Sowden in the presence of Mr. Neuberger were unsuccessful.
In his report to the Wilmington/Philadelphia Provincial of the Oblates order, Judge Kaplan, described the allegations as being "without basis in fact." The report was later examined by the Review Board of the Diocese of Charlotte which made a recommendation to Bishop Jugis.
"At the Oblates, where Father Gondek is a brother about whom each of us cares deeply, we're excited that the findings of Judge Kaplan's investigation combined with the review by Bishop Jugis and the independent panel in Charlotte cleared the way for Father Gondek's return to service in the Lexington parish" said the Very Rev. Joseph G. Morrissey, OSFS, Provincial, or head, of the Wilmington/Philadelphia Province.
"My job is Christian service and leadership," said Father Gondek. "It is a tremendous joy for me to return to my friends at Our Lady of the Rosary parish, and I look forward to finishing my career and my life in Christian service. God tests each of us, sometimes in ways we don't understand. I don't feel that my faith has been tested, but I know I have been tested over these past weeks as a result of these false allegations."
In Mr. Neuberger's October press release on behalf of his client Mr. Sowden, he alleged that in 1960 Father Gondek, then a seminarian, fondled Mr. Sowden, then 12, while both were swimming at a summer camp in Maryland.
In fact the camp did not open until 1961, and Father Gondek was not assigned there until 1962. Judge Kaplan reported that his investigation and an independent polygraph found that, in fact, Father Gondek does not know how to swim.
The Oblates of St. Francis de Sales (OSFS) (www.Oblates.org ) is an order of priests founded in 1875 by Louis Brisson, a priest of Troyes in France. Since then, thousands of men in Europe, Africa, Asia and North and South America have joined and served in the community. Oblates first arrived in the United States in 1893 and established a permanent community here in 1903.
The Diocese of Charlotte is made up of the 46 counties of Western North Carolina. More than 300,000 Catholics worship in the 90 parishes and missions of the diocese.
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