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  Priest Accused of Sex Abuse Named
Monsignor at Pottsville Is Alleged to Have Had Improper Contact with Minor 20 Years Ago, Letter from Allentown Bishop Says

By Ann Wlazelek
Morning Call (Allentown, PA)
April 15, 2002

The Allentown Catholic Diocese this weekend identified a Pottsville priest the diocese believes sexually abused a minor more than 20 years ago.

In a letter read to St. Patrick parishioners at the end of Masses Saturday and Sunday, Bishop Edward Cullen said Monsignor William E. Jones of St. Patrick Church had been dismissed because of a credible allegation that surfaced last week.

No charges were filed against Jones, who like four other priests since 2000 was dismissed for an alleged child abuse case that occurred more than 20 years ago. Another priest was dismissed for a 1995 incident.

"The well-being of our children is our primary concern," Cullen wrote in the letter. "I have made it clear since becoming bishop of Allentown in 1998 that I would not permit any cleric to function in any active ministry within the Diocese of Allentown if a credible allegation of sexual misconduct involving a minor was ever reported about that cleric."

Jones, 68, could not be reached for comment. Born in Tamaqua and ordained in 1960, he had been assigned to St. Patrick in 1983 but no longer lives at the rectory, said Matt Kerr, spokesman for the diocese.

The news came as a shock to the church's 1,800 members, according to Pottsville Mayor John D. W. Reiley, a parishioner who heard the letter read at a Mass at St. Patrick's chapel.

"Father Jones did a lot for the parish," he said, calling Jones a "master fund-raiser," who got St. Patrick's out of debt within a few years of his arrival. Reiley said Jones is active in Schuylkill County, serving on the board of the Pottsville Hospital and on the Volunteer Firemen's Association.

Reiley said there was no hint of improper behavior.

The diocese did not divulge where Jones was assigned at the time of the alleged abuse. According to Reiley, Jones served St. Vincent de Paul in Minersville before St. Patrick's. Other assignments included St. Ambrose Church in Schuylkill Haven in 1963 and St. Jane Frances de Chantal in Wilson in 1970, when he also was associate professor at Notre Dame High School in Bethlehem Township.

The diocese would not name the victim or say if the victim was male or female. When asked if there could have been more than one victim, Kerr said, "We have one allegation."

That allegation came Tuesday, according to Kerr, and Jones was relieved of his duties Wednesday or Thursday.

"Someone came forward," Kerr said, not revealing if it was the victim or someone else. Kerr also said he did not know if Jones admitted the abuse or what his reaction was to being removed.

Jones will not receive another assignment in the diocese, Kerr said, nor would his name or his victim's be turned over to legal authorities because "it was an old allegation." A person has until they are 23 to report abuse in their childhood.

Since January, hundreds of allegations of sexual misconduct by priests have been made nationwide, and at least 10 in the Allentown Diocese have been suspected of sexually abusing children in the past 15 years.

The Allentown Diocese took action against six priests, including Jones, the first and only one named. But, don't expect the rest to be named.

"Each was a separate case with different circumstances," Kerr said. "I don't believe there will be another letter."

When asked why the diocese decided to name Jones and not the other priests, Kerr said, "for the people of the parish," and would not elaborate.

In addition to Jones, the diocese last week also suspended a priest accused of sexually abusing a child in 1995. Because that allegation was more current, it was reported to the state Department of Public Welfare's ChildLine on April 5, the day it was discovered.

 
 

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