|Questions Raised on Albany Diocese Action
By Jordan Carleo-Evangelist
Albany Times Union
March 21, 2011
ALBANY -- The Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany's announcement this weekend that it placed three priests on leave amid allegations they sexually abused a minor raises questions about an earlier diocesan investigation that effectively cleared the same clerics seven years ago, advocates for abuse victims said Monday.
Bishop Howard Hubbard announced Saturday that he had put the three retired priests -- the Rev. Alan Jupin, 73; the Rev. Donald Ophals, 77; and the Rev. Louis Douglas, 82 -- on leave pending an investigation into whether they abused a minor in Albany between 1986 and 1991.
They are the same three priests who faced accusations in 2003 from Timothy Sawicki.
On Monday, diocesan spokesman Kenneth Goldfarb declined to say specifically whether the Diocesan Sexual Misconduct Review Board -- the panel charged with examining abuse claims against priests -- would revisit Sawicki's 2003 allegations, which Goldfarb said "could not be substantiated."
"I'm not going to comment on any specific case," Goldfarb said. He would say only that the review board would examine "all relevant information" on the new allegation.
All three priests were restored to ministry in 2004.
But Mark Lyman, Capital Region director of the advocacy group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the new accusations validate Sawicki's claims and call into question the diocesan review process.
"I don't understand how Tim Sawicki, his story, could not be validated," Lyman said at a news conference on Monday in response to the diocese's weekend announcement.
Lyman described the new accuser -- whom he said he first spoke to about a year ago -- as a man in his early 30s but declined to elaborate further, citing privacy concerns.
Lyman said SNAP urged the man to reach out to law enforcement and that he had spoken with the man as recently as the trial of Gary Mercure, who had been a pastor in Glens Falls and Troy parishes and was convicted last month in Berkshire County, Mass., of raping two altar boys.
Asked whether he could be sure that the man he spoke with was the same person whose allegation the diocese was responding to now, Lyman acknowledged he could not -- though he said he strongly suspected it.
"We have two victims that have been abused by the same priests, the same three priests," Lyman said. "And that's scary."
Jupin, retired pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Schenectady, and Ophals, who served as pastor at St. Francis de Sales Parish in Troy, had remained in active ministry.
Douglas, who retired from St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Albany in 1992, is under medical care in a nursing facility in Delaware.
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