Catholic priest under investigation
By Roseanne Mckee
July 7, 2019
On Friday, Father John O’Neill, Pastor of St. John Before the Latin Gate, in Bartlesville alerted parishioners on the parish website’s News and Events page that a former priest, Joe Townsend, who had served at St. John Before the Latin Gate in 1995-96, has been placed on administrative leave following a report of sexual misconduct with a minor. The parish website post, which may be found online at https://www.stjohn-bartlesville.org/news-and-events, is entitled “Fr. John’s Comments About the Most Recent Statement from the Diocese.”
St. John is a Parish of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tulsa, where Townsend, currently serves.
In his website post, O’Neill asked parishioners to report any abuse to authorities.
He wrote: “I am asking that if anyone has knowledge of abuse of a minor either in this case or by any other person affiliated with the Catholic Church, please first call the DHS statewide Abuse Hotline, 800-522-3511. They will direct you in further steps. I would ask that you report it to local law enforcement.
“To report knowledge of any abuse in this case, you should also call the Pastoral Response Hotline at 918-307-4970. If you are more comfortable reporting anything through me , you may call me at 918-336-4353 x 150 to begin the process of reporting abuse within the diocese. Please know that I am available to assist you in this.”
Included in the website notification was a copy of a memorandum from the Diocese of Tulsa and Eastern Oklahoma dated July 5.
The memorandum from Harrison H. Garlick, chancellor and in-house counsel, written to priests, deacons and chancery personnel, stated in part: “As the head of the Diocese of Tulsa of Eastern Oklahoma (“Diocese”), Bishop Konderla is fully committed to to Policies & Procedures for the Protection of Children & Young People (“Policies”). As part of that commitment, Bishop Konderla has placed Father Joe Townsend, a priest of the Diocese, on administrative leave due to a non-frivolous allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor.
“In adherence to the Policies, the Diocese is committed to a process that is both victim-centered and respectful of the rights of the accused. Father Joe Townsend is presumed innocent, he is fully cooperating with the investigation, and he denies all allegations of misconduct. A priest being placed on administrative leave is a prudential step int he procedures of addressing an allegation of sexual misconduct. ... Out of respect for the accused and the alleged victim, no further details will be shared until the investigation is complete.”