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  Former Martindale Priest Is Charged with Assault

By Eileen E. Flynn
Austin American-Statesman
July 20, 2002

A former Martindale priest, removed from the Austin Diocese in April for inappropriate conduct with a minor, has been charged with a misdemeanor assault that does not involve either sexual contact or injuries to the child.

Although a criminal investigation revealed no evidence of violence or sexual abuse, Bishop Gregory Aymond has told parishioners at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Martindale that the Rev. Dan Drinan will not be allowed to return.

"My decision not to invite (Drinan) back to do ministry in the diocese is based not just on this incident," Aymond said Friday. "As the diocese did its own investigation, there were other issues and circumstances from the past that made it clear to me that, in my opinion, he should not serve in priestly ministry at this time."

Aymond would not be specific about those other issues but said they did not involve children. Aymond said he could not discuss the nature or details of other alleged incidents.

Drinan, 53, who was also pastor to St. Michael Church in nearby Uhland, was charged with a Class C misdemeanor assault after a complaint was made by a child's family in April. Drinan faces no jail time and will pay a fine, which could be up to $500. Class C misdemeanor cases don't require court hearings or formal pleas.

Martindale Police Sgt. Kimberly Phillips likened the charge to a speeding ticket. She said the victim objected to the way Drinan touched him but had not been injured.

"I don't know how this got all blown out of proportion," Phillips said.

Phillips declined to provide specifics on the assault charge, saying only that Drinan's lawyer, Roy Minton, was making arrangements to pay the fine.

Minton did not immediately return a message left at his office.

After being removed from the diocese, Drinan, a member of the Eastern Province of Claretians, returned to his religious order's headquarters in Chicago. He has not served as a priest since, said the Rev. Len Brown, provincial of the order.

Brown said he had not been informed of the assault charge. Drinan will not be allowed to resume his priestly duties unless a review board determines that he is fit for ministry, Brown said.

Drinan, who had served in Martindale for nearly three years, was the first priest the diocese suspended after the Roman Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal drew widespread attention in January. When Aymond first told parishioners about the investigation in May, many believed their pastor had been falsely accused.

Jenee Arthur, an Austin resident and longtime friend of the priest, said Drinan was the victim of a "feeding frenzy" brought on by the scandal.

"I'm happy that the charge was minimal," she said. "But I'm really sad that my friend's life and career have been put in this upheaval based on something so really trivial, if you ask me."

Aymond said even though it was not sexual in nature, Drinan's behavior violated the diocese's ethics policy, which prohibits a variety of physical contacts between adults and minors.

 
 

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