Lexington pastor removed from ministry following abuse allegation
By Patricia L. Guilfoyle
Catholic News Herald
December 20, 2015
CHARLOTTE — Effective immediately, Oblate Father Albert J. Gondek has been temporarily removed from ministry following an accusation of child sexual abuse alleged to have occurred about five years ago.
Father Gondek, a priest with the Wilmington-Philadelphia Province of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales for nearly 50 years, served as pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary of Church in Lexington for the past 17 years. “In consultation with Bishop Peter J. Jugis,” head of the Diocese of Charlotte, his order placed him on administrative leave from his pastorate “in an abundance of caution” while an investigation of the allegation is conducted, a Dec. 19 statement from the province’s spokesman Father Kevin Nadolski said.
“The allegation was reported to the Oblates from an incarcerated man who claims Fr. Gondek touched him in a sexually inappropriate way about five years ago when he was 18. The man also claimed that this occurred with minors, who have not come forth,” the statement said.
“The Oblates and the (Charlotte) diocese will work with local law authorities to address this matter,” the Oblates’ statement continued.
Holy Rosary parishioners were informed of the allegation Dec. 19 by members of Father Gondek’s order who are staffing the parish this weekend.
During the investigation Father Gondek will not publicly celebrate Mass or the sacraments or exercise ministry. “He will live in an Oblate community, outside of North Carolina, that is not connected to a church property,” the Oblates’ statement said.
The move to place Father Gondek on administrative leave follows the U.S. bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, and does not imply guilt or innocence. The charter, adopted in 2002, codifies the Church's commitment to respond effectively, appropriately and compassionately to cases of abuse of young people by priests, deacons or other Church personnel.
“Our commitment to protect children and create safe environments impels us to have Fr. Gondek step back from his ministry until a thorough investigation is conducted,” said Oblate Father James J. Greenfield, the order’s provincial, in the statement. “We make no judgment on either the accuser or Fr. Gondek. We await the results of the investigation and remain committed to guaranteeing the safety of children and advancing the truth.”
In a separate statement, Bishop Jugis said, “The abundance of caution approach that is being taken in this matter is best for everyone. In the meantime my prayers are with Fr. Gondek and with all victims of sexual abuse.”
This abuse allegation is not the first one made against Father Gondek. In an unrelated case, in October 2007, a 59-year-old man claimed that when he was a teenager he was fondled by Father Gondek, then a seminarian, while both were swimming at a summer camp in Maryland in 1960.
In December 2007, Father Gondek returned to ministry in Lexington, after two independent review boards and an investigation led by a retired judge from Baltimore cleared him of any wrongdoing. The investigation included interviews, a polygraph examination and a review of documents. It found that the camp did not open until 1961, and Father Gondek was not assigned there until 1962. The investigation also confirmed Father Gondek’s statement that he did not know how to swim.
“During the 2007 investigation parishioners at Holy Rosary were likewise invited to come forth with any information they may have and to report observations of sexual misconduct to local authorities. None came forward,” the Oblates’ Dec. 19 statement noted.
Father Gondek has served as pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Church since 1998.
He entered the Oblates in 1957 and was ordained to the priesthood on Oct. 1, 1966.
Besides Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Lexington, he served at Northeast Catholic High School in Philadelphia; at Father Lopez High School in Daytona Beach; as parochial vicar at St. Brendan Church in Daytona Beach; and pastor at Sacred Heart Church in Whiteville, N.C.
The Oblates’ Wilmington-Philadelphia Province works in schools, parishes and other ministries from Boston to southwest Florida, including staffing four parishes in the Charlotte diocese.
The province is accredited by Praesidium Inc., an independent agency that evaluates the personnel, policies and structures of organizations that work with children.
In their Dec. 19 statement, the Wilmington-Philadelphia Province asked that anyone with information that could be helpful to the investigation contact the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales at 302-656-8529 or local law authorities.
“The Oblates strongly encourage anyone who has been sexually exploited or abused by a priest, religious brother or sister, or any lay person employed by their community to seek help, and to report the abuse to law enforcement authorities and to the Oblates,” the Dec. 19 statement said. The Oblates reiterate their commitment to care for the emotional, pastoral, and spiritual well-being of those who have suffered abuse by their members.”