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  Archdiocese Won't Remove Priest Accused of Sex Abuse 20 Years Ago
3 Brothers Sued in 1995; One Recently Broke Silence about the Case

By Jeremy Kohler
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
March 6, 2002

The Archdiocese of St. Louis said Tuesday it would not remove a priest who was accused of sexually molesting three brothers 20 years ago.

In a secret settlement four years ago, the archdiocese paid the brothers to settle a suit that accused the Rev. Leroy Valentine of the assaults.

Valentine is now the associate pastor at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Florissant.

"The Archdiocese continues to support Father Valentine in his ministry to the people of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish," the statement said.

St. Louis Archbishop Justin Rigali and other archdiocesan leaders did not return phone messages from a reporter left at the archdiocesan offices Monday and Tuesday. Valentine has denied the allegations and declined to comment last week. He could not be reached Tuesday.

One of the brothers, John Scorfina, held a news conference Tuesday to call on Rigali to remove Valentine.

As part of the settlement, Scorfina said, the brothers were to keep the agreement confidential and the archdiocese would not return Valentine to a ministry with access to children.

Scorfina said he broke his silence because the archdiocese broke its agreement to keep Valentine away from children.

The archdiocese said Tuesday it never made such a promise.

An emotional Scorfina made his comments, sometimes stopping to choke back tears, at the St. Louis home of David Clohessy, national director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. At the end of the news conference, both men hugged.

"I can't imagine what else someone has to do to remove this priest," Clohessy said.

At the time of the alleged assault, the boys were members of St. Pius X Catholic Church in Glasgow Village and attended the school there.

Scorfina said he assumed Valentine was not working near children after the settlement. But on Jan. 16, a photograph of Valentine working out at a fitness center appeared in the North County Journal, bringing back bad memories for the family.

Scorfina's mother, Katie Chrun, made inquiries and discovered Valentine was an associate pastor at St. Thomas. Family members were furious.

"No way was I going to keep quiet," Scorfina said at the news conference Tuesday.

Last week, the archdiocese removed two priests, the Rev. Joseph Ross, p astor of St. Cronan Church, and the Rev. Michael Campbell, pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows, as a result of a review of past allegations of sexual abuse.

On Tuesday night, more than 100 parishioners gathered for a Lenten prayer service at Our Lady of Sorrows Church, 5020 Rhodes Avenue. The Rev. Gary P. Wolken, associate pastor, told worshippers: "Now is a test of faith."

He likened the removal of Campbell to a death. "Many of the feelings are the same," he said pointing to pain, sadness, anger, sense of loss and even a sense of doubt.

"For many the pain will never go away," he told the worshippers. "For many the sadness will also be there . . . but it will be as a parish family that we will continue."

Campbell's supporters appealed for his return. "If he walked in the door now, the majority of the parishioners would want him back," said Francis Leisure.

The Scorfina brothers sued Valentine and the archdiocese in 1995. The priest was removed from a parish following the accusations.

He was placed on administrative leave and underwent rehabilitation at the Wounded Brothers Retreat in Franklin County. He was assigned to St. Thomas in October 1999.

The Rev. Henry Garavaglia, pastor of St. Thomas, wrote a letter to parishioners at the time telling them of the past allegations against Valentine.

Scorfina said speaking against the gag order was an easy decision after he learned Valentine was working about 10 miles from the scene of the alleged attacks. He said he would be willing to give the archdiocese 10 times his settlement if he were sued.

"I know in my heart it might just spare one innocent victim tomorrow," he said.

 
 

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