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Priest Who Wrote Sex-Abuse Guide Faces Charges
A San Francisco Cleric Who Worked As a Canon Lawyer Is Accused of a 1972 Molestation

By William Lobdell
Los Angeles Times
May 25, 2003

A San Francisco priest who was one of the authors of a guide designed to protect minors from sexual abuse by clergy will be arraigned in court this week for allegedly molesting a 15-year-old boy three decades ago.

Marin County prosecutors have charged Father Gregory Ingels with a felony count of sexual abuse. The alleged act took place in the summer of 1972, two years before Ingels was ordained.

In 1996, the San Francisco archdiocese investigated a complaint about the alleged incident. At the time, Ingels was allowed to continue in the ministry. Maurice Healy, a spokesman for San Francisco Archbishop William Levada, said he did not know the results of the inquiry.

Last July, after the U.S. bishops adopted their zero-tolerance policy, Ingels was removed from public ministry. The archdiocese allowed him to work behind the scenes as a canon lawyer.

Despite his removal from public functions, the Canon Law Society of America chose Ingels, a noted expert in church law, to be one of the authors of the guide.

The 47-page publication, issued in March, outlines how bishops should deal with allegations of sexual abuse by priests under new rules initiated last year during the height of the U.S. church's sex scandal.

"Archbishop Levada did not approve the participation of Father Ingels in the Canon Law Society of America project, nor did [the society] ask his approval for Father Ingels to participate," Healy said in a statement.

"This affirms what we knew all along," said David Clohessy, national executive director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "These predators are very smart, charismatic and even high-ranking."

As with most criminal cases in California involving allegations of sexual abuse by priests, prosecutors are using a state law that allows them to file charges against an alleged sexual abuser no matter how old the case, so long as the charges are filed within one year of the victim's reporting the incidents to authorities.

The law, passed in 1994, was upheld by the state Supreme Court in 1999. The U.S. Supreme Court is now considering its constitutionality.

"This case, involving prosecution of something 30 years old," and whose original statute of limitations ran out long ago, "shows how unfair this is," said Arthur Wachtel, a San Francisco attorney representing Ingels.

Authorities say their case is bolstered by conversations between the priest and his alleged victim that were recorded by police. The existence of the tapes was first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.

On the tape, Ingels reportedly said, "What I did to you was terrible" and "I did this to you, [and] it was an authority issue."

 
 

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