13-Year-Old Incident Involves the Rev. Michael A. Campbell
He Also Is a Member of Housing Authority Board
By Patricia Rice And Norm Parish
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
March 3, 2002
The St. Louis Archdiocese removed the Rev. Michael A. Campbell as pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows Church on Saturday in response to 13-year-old allegations of sexual abuse.
At the end of the 5 p.m. Mass Saturday night, Bishop Timothy Dolan read a letter from Campbell to the 500 parishioners in the church at 5020 Rhodes Avenue, at South Kingshighway north of Gravois Avenue.
"It is the toughest letter he has ever had to write," Dolan said. "He has been living for the past 13 years with an incident that had never happened before and never happened after."
Campbell, who is also a member of the St. Louis Housing Authority board, is the second priest to be removed from his parish in the last five days. Church officials said both actions are the result of an archdiocesan review of past allegations of sexual abuse, prompted in part by scandals in the Boston Archdiocese.
Under the St. Louis Archdiocese's new standard, no priest will be allowed to work in a parish if an allegation of child molestation against him has been substantiated.
Dolan has said that the archdiocese's review is complete and that no other claims of past sexual abuse have been substantiated.
Neither Dolan, who supervises the archdiocese's sexual abuse policy, nor other church officials would provide details of the allegation against Campbell or would identify the parish where he was working at the time. Campbell left the Our Lady of Sorrows rectory Wednesday and could not be reached for comment.
Dolan said Campbell has been pastor of the parish members call "OLS" since 1995. He is 48 and was ordained a priest in 1979. Among the parishes where he has served are St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in the Oakville area and more recently at St. Raphael the Archangel in the St. Louis Hills neighborhood.
He also worked with the Serra Club, a Catholic men's organization that supports priests and encourages teens to join the priesthood.
He was appointed to the St. Louis Housing Authority board in June and joined it in September.
Many who know the pastor were stunned by the news.
"I'm surprised and frankly, given what I've known, I would give him the benefit of the doubt and hope if any charges are made they really need to be looked at carefully," said acting Aldermanic President James S hrewsbury. "I think that the whole archdiocese is upset by this. That's not to say this doesn't need to done. But allegations have to be thoroughly examined."
John Kramer, 42, who had gone to Our Lady of Sorrows expecting to attend a social function Saturday night said he was shocked by the action.
"I have not seen anything to question his ability," he said. "He was always fine and upstanding."
Kramer has been a member of the parish for eight years and has two children who go to the parish elementary school.
"Father Campbell is wonderful pastor. This is like a witch hunt," said parishioner Mildred Tichacek as she sobbed in a telephone interview. "He's a neat priest, a talented speaker, wonderfully knowledgeable about scripture."
She said that she feels sorry if there was a victim of child abuse and that she feels sorry for the priest. Between tears, she said she hurts for the priest's mother. Tichacek is the mother of the Rev. Charles Tichacek, 34, a St. Louis diocesan priest now working in a mission in Bolivia.
"I just wonder if it is true," she said. "Even if it is, so long ago and just once, it's become a witch hunt."
A shocked Stephen Doss, a member of Union United Methodist in the St. Louis Hills neighborhood, said Campbell was his good friend. About once a month the two used to drive through south St. Louis looking at vacant storefronts and dreaming up ideas about what kind of business might work there. Sometimes they suggested an entrepreneur to invest in the area, Doss said.
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