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  St. Louis Archdiocese Names Second Priest with Sex Abuse Allegations

Associated Press
March 2, 2002

The Archdiocese of St. Louis has removed a second priest over an allegation of past child sexual abuse, citing a tougher local standard imposed after revelations the Boston diocese failed to remove 80 priests accused of sexually molesting children.

Archdiocesan officials on Saturday identified the Rev. Michael Campbell as the second priest forced to resign. Campbell is pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows and a member of the St. Louis Housing Authority board.

Last week, the removal of the Rev. Joseph D. Ross from St. Cronan Church became public after Ross sent a letter to parish members advising them of his departure. Ross' ouster was in response to sexual abuse charges against him 15 years ago when he was with a different area church, the archdiocese said.

A month ago, Auxiliary Bishop Timothy M. Dolan took over the task of overseeing claims of sexual abuse for the archdiocese. He said the two resignations ensured that no priest in the archdiocese with a substantiated allegation of child sexual abuse is in any pastoral setting or position that provides access to children.

"There is nobody we are worried about in the ministry," Dolan said.

But the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported in Sunday's editions that at least three priests who have been accused in civil court of sexual abuse remain active in the archdiocese today, two in contact with children.

The Rev. Bruce Forman is a director of a youth choir in Soulard. The Rev. Thomas Graham is chaplain at a nursing home in south St. Louis County, and the Rev. Leroy Valentine is an associate pastor in Florissant.

Dolan said accusations against the priests were unsubstantiated, and the archdiocese had no plans to remove them. The archdiocese said it will not reopen reviews if it has previously determined that complaints against priests were not credible.

Archdiocesan representatives were to attend Mass at both parishes this weekend to read a letter explaining the resignations and to answer any questions, officials said.

In a statement released Friday, Archbishop Justin Rigali said he called for the new standard.

"Until now, the archdiocesan sexual abuse committee could recommend that a priest might be placed in a pastoral setting after professional evaluation and treatment, and with appropriate monitoring, if the committee believed the priest posed no risk to minors," Rigali wrote.

News of Ross' forced resignation angered some St. Cronan parishioners, including some who thought the archdiocese treated Ross unfairly.

While saying he understood the concerns, Dolan said the archdiocese was responding to a clear message from the public for higher standards and even more restrictive policy.

"The primary concern of the church is the safety of our children and the trust of our members," Dolan said, encouraging anyone who felt they were an abuse victim to contact the archdiocese or authorities for assistance.

"We want them to come forward; let us know and we will try our best to respond," he said. "Call, write, let us know. We are not just worried about the letter of the law; that is not our major goal. Serving and protecting children is what we want."

 
 

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