St. Louis Archdiocese Removes Former Vianney President's Priestly Authority

By Tim Townsend
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
May 10, 2009 archdiocese-removes-former-vianney-presidents-preistly-faculties/

In a statement it attributed to Deacon Phil Hengen, Director of its Office of Child and Youth Protection, the St. Louis Archdiocese said Saturday that its interim leader, Bishop Robert Hermann, had taken away the priestly faculties of the Rev. Robert Osborne, former president of Vianney High School in Kirkwood.

The removal of Osborne's "faculties" - a term meaning the authority to perform as a cleric - means the Marianist priest can no longer publicly celebrate Mass.

Hermann is the interim leader of the St. Louis Archdiocese until newly named Archbishop-elect Robert Carlson's installation next month.

In February 2006, Osborne temporarily stepped down as president of Vianney after a lawsuit accused him of having "sexually, physically and emotionally abused" a student. Another accusation followed, and in August 2006 Vianney removed Osborne permanently for what were called "unresolved legal matters."

Osborne has consistently denied all the accusations against him, and in October 2006, a criminal investigation of the two allegations by the St. Louis County prosecutors office ended with no criminal charges.

The following June, the Marianist Province of the United States said its insurance company "forced" it to settle a civil case against Osborne for an undisclosed sum. In August 2007, an activist group called the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests complained that the St. Louis archdiocese was allowing Osborne to celebrate Mass at St. Peter's Catholic Church in Kirkwood.

At the time, Monsignor Richard Stika, now the bishop of Knoxville, said Osborne had been cleared by civil and church investigations of any wrongdoing. "The presumption is that he is innocent," Stika said then.

As recently as last November representatives of the St. Louis Archdiocese said an internal investigation by the Marianists, "indicated there is no credible or substantiated allegation of abuse against Father Osborne."

As of Sunday afternoon, St. Peter's website still included a photo of Osborne and designated him as a "visiting priest."

On Saturday the archdiocese offered the following statement:

Upon obtaining information from the Marianist Province that was recently made available to the Archdiocese of St. Louis regarding a previous investigation involving Rev. Robert Osborne, a priest in The Society of Mary (Marianists), Archdiocesan Administrator Bishop Robert J. Hermann has removed Rev. Osborne's priest faculties. As a result, Rev. Osborne may no longer live in residence within any Archdiocesan parish rectory and may not celebrate Mass publicly.

Osborne, now in his mid-70s, took his first vows in 1955 and was ordained in 1966. He both taught and served in religious or administrative roles at Vianney and Chaminade College Preparatory School in Creve Coeur and first served as acting president at Vianney in 2002. He was a pastor of Our Lady of the Pillar from 1981 to 1986 and served in the Marianist administration from 1986 to 1995.


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