|Priest Accused of Sexual Misconduct While at St. Pats
By Kevin Nevers
April 19, 2010
The pastor of Queen of All Saints Church in Michigan City has been placed on administrative leave after being accused of sexual misconduct which allegedly occurred while he was associate pastor of St. Patrick Catholic Church in Chesterton in 1991.
Father Terrence Chase was placed on administrative leave on Thursday by Gary Diocese Bishop Dale Melczek, Deacon Mark Plaiss told the Chesterton Tribune today.
Plaiss, the diocese spokesman, said that the allegation was lodged against Chase two weeks before Easter. A response team—comprised of eight lay people and two priests—subsequently interviewed both Chase and his accuser, separately and more than once, and later reported to Melczek that the “allegation was not manifestly frivolous but appeared to have some merit.”
Plaiss did not know the sex of the accuser or the age except that the person was a minor in 1991. Nor was Plaiss able to say what the exact nature of the allegation is, as only Chase, his accuser, Melczek, and the response team are privy to that information.
The Chesterton Police Department has been informed of the allegation, Plaiss added, but under church policy the diocese is not releasing the accuser’s name.
Police Chief Dave Cincoski said today that unless the CPD is given the details of the allegation—including the victim’s name—its hands are effectively tied. “It’s hard to pursue a criminal investigation unless we have a victim,” he said.
Indiana Code—35-41-4-2—bars prosecution for the offenses of child molesting, vicarious sexual gratification, child solicitation, and child seduction if that prosecution has not commenced before the date that the alleged victim turns 31.
Under church policy promulgated in 2002, any priest accused of sexual misconduct is placed on administrative leave pending the disposition of the case, Plaiss said. A priest on administrative leave may not publicly celebrate the Sacraments, may not reside in any place where a minor is residing, and may neither wear clerical garb nor present himself publicly as a priest.
Father Kevin Hubert has been appointed to serve as administrator at Queen of All Saints and is scheduled to arrive from California late today, Plaiss added.
The case will now be referred to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Truth (CDT) in Rome, Plaiss said, the body responsible for reviewing all allegations of sexual misconduct made against priests. “It’s dealing with these all over the world, so this is going to take some time. How long, I don’t know. All I can say is, long.”
But, Plaiss said, “more than likely” the CDT will “knock back” the case to the Gary Diocese, and if the accuser has not recanted or dropped the charge and Chase continues at that time to maintain his innocence, an ecclesiastical trial will be held and the tribunal will reach a verdict.
“No criminal or civil charges have been filed against (Chase) nor have any other allegations been filed against him,” Plaiss said.
Chase Maintains Innocence
Father James Meade of St. Patrick Catholic Church told the Tribune that he spoke with Chase on Friday and that Chase maintains his innocence. Chase also told Meade that the allegation itself lacks “specificity” and that he has not been specifically told “what he was alleged to have done.”
“I’ve talked with parishioners who remember Chase and they have only spoken about his compassion and his willingness to help people in need,” Meade said.
Chase “insists that he is innocent and never made any sexually suggestive touches or comments to anybody at any time,” Meade said.
Chase served at St. Patrick Catholic Church for approximately two years in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Meade said.
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