Iowa Priest on Administrative Leave after Sex Abuse Allegation
By Sharyn Jackson
Des Moines Register
June 30, 2014
The Diocese of Des Moines has placed an Iowa priest on indefinite administrative leave after determining that a decades-old allegation of sexual abuse of a minor is "credible," according to a news release issued today from the diocese.
The Rev. Howard Fitzgerald, the priest at Simpson College, St Thomas Aquinas Parish in Indianola and Immaculate Conception Church in St. Marys, can no longer function publicly as a priest and has been asked to stop wearing clerical garb, the release says.
The case has been forwarded to the Vatican.
No details were given about the alleged abuse. Bishop Richard Pates of the Diocese of Des Moines apologized to the victim, who asked to remain anonymous. The victim has received services from the diocesan victim assistance advocate, Sherry Knox. Local law enforcement has been informed of the incident, the release says.
"It is a top priority that we address all credible allegations of sexual abuse in the manner outlined by the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. In addition, the diocese continues to do all it can to ensure we create a safe environment for children and all vulnerable individuals in our churches and schools," Pates said.
At Simpson, Fitzgerald met with students for personal counseling and spiritual guidance but was not an employee of the college, according to a statement from Simpson President Jay Simmons. Fitzgerald conducted a Sunday night Mass on campus, attended student lunches and dinners, and co-officiated at Ash Wednesday services as a liaison from St. Thomas Aquinas Parish. His duties ended at the close of the academic year this spring, the statement says.
Fitzgerald had been asked by the diocese to step aside from his parish responsibilities during an investigation by the Allegation Review Committee. Members of the committee include a judge, a licensed clinical social worker, a police detective, an attorney, a priest and a permanent deacon, according to the news release.
Pates will lead Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish and Immaculate Conception this weekend.
Fitzgerald has served at the following places:
St. Albert High School, Council Bluffs
St. Pius X Church, Urbandale
Pastoral team serving St. Mary, Panama; St. Mary, Portsmouth; and St. Boniface, Westphalia
St. Peter and St. Francis Worship Center, Council Bluffs
Holy Spirit, Creston; and St. Edward, Afton
St. Patrick, Dunlap; and Sacred Heart, Woodbine
St. Michael, Harlan
Ss. John & Paul, Altoona
St. Joseph, Earling; and St. Peter, Defiance
St. Patrick, Dunlap; Holy Family, Mondamin; Sacred Heart, Woodbine
Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, Glenwood
St. Thomas Aquinas, Indianola; and Immaculate Conception, St. Marys