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  Child Porn Possession Alleged Diocese Suspends Grand Prairie Pastor after His Arrest

By Stephanie Sandoval
Dallas Morning News
February 3, 2005

GRAND PRAIRIE - The Dallas Catholic Diocese suspended a Grand Prairie priest after his arrest Wednesday on allegations of possessing child pornography.

Father Matthew Bagert, 36, of Immaculate Conception Church was suspended indefinitely as police investigate, diocese officials said. He was booked into the Grand Prairie jail and released Wednesday on $20,000 bail.

Father Bagert, who was arrested at the church's clergy residence, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. His father and another relative, reached by telephone Wednesday night, declined to comment.

Dallas Catholic Diocese leaders have no reason to believe that others are involved or that parish children have been victimized, said Bronson Havard, a spokesman for Dallas Bishop Charles Grahmann.

"We have not received any other allegations of sexual misconduct involving him," he said. "Certainly this comes as a shock to everyone. He's a widely respected man."

Mr. Havard declined to say how the matter first came to light or who made the initial report to police. He did say the arrest was the culmination of a two-week investigation in which the diocese cooperated with police.

"Our relationship with the Grand Prairie police has been close," Mr. Havard said.

Grand Prairie police declined to discuss the case Wednesday, other than to confirm Father Bagert's arrest.

Immaculate Conception parishioner Bill Moser, who was at the church Wednesday night, said officials from the diocese contacted police as soon as the materials were discovered.

Church parishioners and parents of children enrolled in the Immaculate Conception school were notified by letter Wednesday of Father Bagert's arrest, said Mr. Moser and Assistant Pastor Jesus Belmontes.

Further questions were referred to diocese leaders.

Father Bagert was ordained in 1997 and assigned to the Immaculate Conception Church in 2000 as assistant pastor. He became pastor in 2001.

He was previously assigned to St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in Plano and St. Jude Catholic Church in Allen.

The Immaculate Conception Church was investigated several years ago by Grand Prairie police after a church employee was accused of pocketing thousands of dollars for personal use. Church officials reported the scandal, which was not linked to any wrongdoing by Father Bagert, to police.

Grand Prairie City Council member and Immaculate Conception parishioner Richard Fregoe said Wednesday night that he was surprised at the allegations against the priest.

"Father Bagert, in my opinion, has served the parish in an outstanding manner. I'm sure this is a surprise, a shock to all the parishioners," Mr. Fregoe said. "Of course I have no idea whether the accusations are even accurate, but it certainly is a shock."

 
 

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