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  Fort Worth Diocese Bars Priest Accused of Sexual Misconduct
Priest: the Fort Worth Diocese Did Not Know That a Visiting Priest Accused of Sexual Abuse Was Practicing Ministry at an Arlington Parish.

By Darren Barbee
Fort Worth Star Telegram (Texas)
July 1, 2004

ARLINGTON--A Pennsylvania priest suspended because of sexual misconduct allegations has been barred from practicing in the Fort Worth Roman Catholic Diocese.

The Rev. Christopher Clay, who maintains his innocence, has celebrated Mass at St. Mary the Virgin Roman Catholic Church in Arlington for more than a year without the diocese's knowledge, said the Rev. Robert Wilson, the diocese's chancellor.

"He cannot perform any kind of priestly duties," Wilson said.

Clay, who lives in Oak Cliff, has been on a leave of absence from active ministry in the Diocese of Scranton since February 2003, according to a statement from the Pennsylvania diocese.

The Rev. Allan Hawkins of St. Mary said that he was aware of allegations against his friend Clay but invited him to celebrate Mass at the Arlington church because he believed Clay was on sick leave. In an e-mail, Hawkins said Clay had been appointed to a Lake Ariel, Pa., parish in 2003 before asking for a leave of absence.

Hawkins said that he contacted the Scranton diocese around March 2003 to make sure Clay could assist at St. Mary.

The now-retired Scranton bishop "assured me that this was entirely acceptable," Hawkins wrote. In a statement issued last week, the Diocese of Scranton said no diocese had requested information about Clay.

Allegations against Clay first came to light during a 2002 law-enforcement investigation, a Scranton diocese spokeswoman said. The diocese is still investigating the incident, Wilson said Wednesday.

Clay, who did not return a message left at his home, has not been charged with a crime. Hawkins said Clay "strenuously denies all and any such allegations."

Clay was accused in a subsequent civil court document of giving a young man alcohol and undressing him, said James Bendell, a Washington state attorney who represents Clay's accuser in a lawsuit against two other priests. Clay is not being sued, Bendell said.

Mike Gleason, a St. Mary parishioner until he moved to California a few weeks ago, said he was not aware of the allegations against Clay.

Gleason said he will continue to support St. Mary even though he has moved out of state.

"I don't want to take this lightly, especially as the father of young children," Gleason said. "But it's frustrating when you hear this about someone you know who is doing a lot of good."

 
 

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