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  Suspended or Not? Accused Ex-Local Priest's Status Unclear
Former Bishop Timlin and the Diocesan Office Say Different Things about a Cleric Found Active in Texas

By Mark Guydish
Wilkes Barre Times Leader
July 14, 2004

SCRANTON - A former area priest accused of sexual abuse was banned from active ministry, then given the OK to resume that work ... except he wasn't.

Confused? So is the priest's lawyer.

Attorney Greg Magarity says his client, the Rev. Christopher Clay, deserves answers. In 2002, Clay was accused of sexual misconduct and relieved of his duties. But he later received approval to resume active ministry from then-Bishop James Timlin.

Yet according to Diocese of Scranton spokeswoman Maria Orzel, Bishop Joseph Martino, who replaced Timlin last year, still bans Clay from active ministry. On Tuesday, Orzel said the ban is intact because a diocesan investigation is "ongoing."

That left Magarity baffled. "You can't have something under investigation for two years. What kind of due process is that?"

The confusion emerged when the Dallas Morning News reported that Clay was working as a priest on weekends at an Arlington Church. The Rev. Alan Hawkins, the pastor at that church, had called Timlin to check on Clay's background before letting him serve.

Yet Hawkins has come under fire from a national organization, the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. In a June 30 press release, SNAP insisted Hawkins should be "punished" for allowing Clay to serve at his church. The organization didn't specify what type of punishment.

After the Dallas Morning News story ran, Timlin told the Times Leader on July 1 that he had given Clay the green light because no criminal charges or civil lawsuits were filed against Clay. Timlin made no mention of a diocese investigation.

On Tuesday, Magarity said he was writing a letter to Martino seeking clarification. The attorney pointed out that, under diocese policy, the case should have gone to a review board.

"Why hasn't the review board ruled on it?" Magarity asked. "We can't leave this thing in limbo."

 
 

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