Accused Catholic Pastor Resigns
Rev. Hubert Creason Was at St. James in Catawissa in Rural Franklin County

By Aisha Sultan
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
May 6, 2002

An official with the Archdiocese of St. Louis informed parishioners at St. James Church in Catawissa over the weekend that their priest was the latest to resign amid allegations of sexually abusing minors.

Msgr. Richard Stika, vicar general with the archdiocese, appeared at Masses Saturday night and Sunday and read a letter that the Rev. Hubert E. Creason had mailed to the small parish in Franklin County last week.

"I am very sorry for having offended any minor and God, Himself," Creason wrote.

Archdiocesan officials received an allegation on April 24 that Creason had sexually abused a minor about 25 years ago. After the church learned of that victim's complaint, another person came forward with an allegation from about 30 years ago, said spokesman Jim Orso.

Church officials asked Creason to resign, and he did so on April 26, effective April 29. The church has substantiated both allegations, Orso said.

Church officials refused to provide any specific details of the abuse. The recent allegation was the first time church officials had heard of abuse regarding Creason, Orso said.

Creason was ordained in 1958 and has served as a pastor or assistant pastor at five area churches.

A day after he resigned, Creason administered his last sacrament. He married a couple April 27 at St. Patrick's Rock Church, down the road from St. James, where Creason's grandparents had married 75 years before. Orso said Archbishop Justin Rigali had given Creason permission to officiate at the wedding.

Creason was unavailable for comment, the church bookkeeper, Carroll Schmelz, said.

Parishioners at St. James said Sunday they were stunned and saddened by the news about their pastor.

William B. Murphy, president of the St. Patrick Benevolent Society, said he received the letter in the mail Saturday.

"I read the letter at least five times. I'm just shocked," he said. He described Creason as "one of the greatest pastors we've ever had."

Some families have attended the small, white frame church with its shingled roof and stained glass windows for generations. Schmelz, the church bookkeeper, wiped tears from her eyes as she described the emotional toll the news has taken on the close-knit family of parishioners.

Despite reading about scandals plaguing the Catholic Church, "we knew our priest was OK," she said. "There was not one iota of doubt about him."

She said most parishioners were supportive of Creason, although they understand why he has to resign.

"There is a victim out there . . . ," Schmelz said. "Church officials are doing what they have to do."

Words of praiseSeveral people described Creason as a kind and gentle leader who had increased the church's membership since taking over 12 years ago. He has struggled with health problems for years.

Parishioner Andy Kliethermes, 72, said his disappointment was mixed w ith compassion: "I know of very few people who are without sin."

Creason is the eighth area priest who has either resigned or been removed in the archdiocese since the sex abuse scandal broke earlier this year.

Orso said church officials encouraged the victims who came forward to report the allegations against Creason to civil authorities, but the archdiocese did not turn the information over to prosecutors.

The Rev. Richard Coerver of St. Bridget Church in Pacific will oversee weddings and baptisms for the St. James parishioners, Schmelz said. Someone will be assigned temporarily to celebrate Mass on Saturdays and Sundays.


Where Creason served

Here are the area parishes where the Rev. Hubert E. Creason served:

May 1960: Assistant pastor, the old St. Louise de Marillac, Jennings.

Nov. 1971: Assistant pastor, Mary Queen of Peace, Webster Groves.

May 1978: Pastor, Ascension Church, Normandy

Aug. 1983: Pastor, Our Lady Queen of Peace, House Springs.

Jan. 1991 to April 26, 2002: Pastor, St. James Catholic Church, Catawissa


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