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  Ousted Priest Known to Be Strict
Pottsville Cleric Named in Sex Scandal Also Had Knack for Fund-Raising

By David Slade and Matt Assad
Morning Call (Allentown, PA)
April 16, 2002

They remember him as an outspoken voice in a vocation of soft-spoken colleagues, a strict disciplinarian in a school that demanded it and a hard-working priest who wasn't afraid to ruffle feathers.

But parishioners at churches in Pottsville and Summit Hill and students at Notre Dame High School in Bethlehem Township said there was nothing to suggest Monsignor William E. Jones was capable of sexual abuse.

Parishioners learned during weekend services that Jones, 68, was dismissed from St. Patrick's Church in Pottsville after the Allentown Catholic Diocese deemed credible an allegation last week that Jones sexually abused a minor more than 20 years ago.

No charges were filed against Jones, one of five priests since 2000 to be dismissed by the diocese for alleged child abuse cases more than 20 years ago. Another priest was suspended earlier this month while authorities investigate a sexual abuse allegation from 1995. The diocese has said it didn't report the older cases because the statute of limitations on the crimes had expired.

Bishop Edward P. Cullen, head of the Allentown Diocese, announced the first wave of dismissals in February, a month after the Boston archdiocese came under fire for transferring a pedophile priest from parish to parish. Cullen relieved four priests of their assignments then, but their names were kept confidential.

Asked why Jones' case was treated differently, diocesan spokesman Matt Kerr said, "It's April and not February. A lot has changed."

He said the diocese's policy is under review and added that the bishop took the needs of the parish into consideration.

As a monsignor, Jones ranked higher than the average parish priest. He was accused of sexually abusing one victim in the early 1980s, Kerr said. He would not say where Jones was stationed then or how old the victim was.

Kerr said the bishop has appointed two delegates to determine if allegations against priests are credible. He wouldn't say what constitutes a credible allegation but said the delegates look for verifiable facts.

In the past, Kerr has said that concern for the victims' privacy has kept the diocese from releasing the priests' names. He said that was not a concern in Jones' case, but did not say why.

Schuylkill County District Attorney Frank R. Cori and Berks County District Attorney Mark Baldwin have joined Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli in asking the diocese to disclose the names of dismissed and suspected priests. The diocese of about 270,000 Catholics also includes Lehigh and Carbon counties.

The dismissed priests will continue to receive financial support from the diocese in accordance with church law, Kerr said. But they will no longer have assignments in the diocese and will not be allowed to celebrate Mass in public. While they will retain their titles, they will have no reason to wear a clerical collar, he said.

Outside the 175-year-old St. Patrick's on Monday, daily churchgoer Elsie Davis called Jones' dismissal sad. "The church is in mourning," she said. "They should have a drape over the door.

"I say pray for him — him and all the other priests," Davis said. "The devil is after them. God can forgive you if you're sorry, so why can't everyone else? We're all human."

Jones no longer lives at St. Patrick's rectory. Efforts Monday to reach him for comment were unsuccessful.

Davis said she knew Jones when he was pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Church in Minersville, near her home, before he was assigned in 1983 to St. Patrick's. She said Jones did a good job at St. Vincent's and St. Patrick's, and was known for his fund-raising skills.

More than 20 years ago, before his transfer to St. Vincent's, Jones was pastor of St. Joseph's Church in Summit Hill.

At his home next door to St. Joseph's, Dan O'Donnell said he knew Jones for several years because he regularly did work for the church."I can't believe Father Jones would ever harm a child," O'Donnell said.

He said Jones was known for speaking his mind. He recounted one story about the priest going to a local bar and persuading people to attend church. O'Donnell also said Jones made a few enemies by publishing the amounts of donations members made to the church.

After being ordained in 1960, Jones was assigned to St. Ambrose Church in Schuylkill Haven in 1963 and St. Jane Frances de Chantal Church in Palmer Township in the 1970s, when he also taught at Notre Dame High.

John Dashe, a Boston neurologist and 1974 Notre Dame graduate, said he has spent two months reading about a Catholic Church scandal that started in his hometown of Boston.

"There have been so many stories in The Boston Globe, it got me to thinking back to all those times I was alone with priests," Dashe said, stressing that nothing improper ever happened. "But the one name that never entered my mind was Rev. Jones. He was a fine priest in every respect I've been kind of hoping this is all some kind of mistake."

Notre Dame students remember Jones as a skilled teacher who organized the parish carnival and built the stands himself. His bright red hair and outspokenness made him stand out in a crowd.

Teaching English and religion, Jones demanded respect from his students — and he got it.

"He didn't even have to raise his voice, you knew to listen," said Joseph Dashe, a Manhattan attorney who graduated from Notre Dame a year after his brother. "He was a hard-working priest and a good teacher. There was never even a hint that he was doing anything improper."

 
 

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