|Accused Cleric Won't Serve in Convent, Diocese Says
By Ann Rodgers
February 20, 2010
A day after announcing that a priest accused of molesting a 16-year-old girl in the 1970s would be restricted to ministry as a chaplain to nuns in a Whitehall convent, the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh has revoked the assignment due to complaints from parents of children in day care on the convent grounds.
"In response to the concerns of parents and understanding the fears raised, and given that I would never want to do anything that would weaken trust in the Church, nor to give even the impression of being cavalier about the safety of children, I have revoked Father [Alvin] Adams' appointment immediately," Bishop David Zubik wrote in a letter given Friday to parents of children in the day-care center run by the Sisters of St. Francis of the Providence of God in Whitehall.
A diocesan review board and Bishop Zubik deemed the allegations from his 50-year-old accuser credible.
But diocesan officials said they didn't believe the Vatican would allow them to remove him from all ministry because she was 16 when she said the abuse began and church law in 1976 considered her an adult. The age was later raised to 18, but in canon law, as in criminal law, cases are tried under the law at the time of the offense.
So diocesan officials sought a restricted, supervised assignment for Father Adams. According to the decision announced Thursday, his sole priestly role was to provide sacraments to sisters in the convent. He was to have no contact with their ministries, he was not to live on the grounds and he was to be supervised by two other priests.
The Rev. Ronald Lengwin, a spokesman for the diocese, said diocesan officials had known about the day care. But they didn't think it posed a problem because it was in a separate building from the convent and because Father Adams was never accused of interest in small children.
Father Adams has maintained that the accusations of molesting the teenage girl are false. Two other people had also brought allegations against him, but the diocesan review board deemed those "not credible."
"The media hysteria following yesterday's actions by the diocese has only compounded the injustice," said Father Adams' attorney, Paul Titus. "The diocese never looked at all the facts, nor have those who have hastened to slander and defame Father Adams. It is a sad day."
After the first media reports about the assignment, parents from the day care contacted the diocese to say that the children sometimes visit the convent, which the diocese hadn't known, Father Lengwin said.
No decision has been made yet about where Father Adams will be assigned.
"It would still be someplace where it would be a restricted appointment with supervision," Father Lengwin said.
Ann Rodgers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1416.
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