Bishop acts on abuse allegation

Roman Catholic Diocese of Des Moines

June 30, 2014
Written By: Anne Marie Cox

Priest on indefinite leave during process

Bishop Richard Pates has placed Father Howard Fitzgerald on indefinite administrative leave following a determination by the diocesan Allegation Review Committee that an allegation of a decades-old incident of sexual abuse of a minor is credible.

While on administrative leave, Father Fitzgerald cannot function publicly as a priest. Bishop Pates has asked him to refrain from wearing the clerical garb.

The matter is being forwarded to the Vatican.

Bishop Pates has apologized to the victim, who asked for anonymity. The diocese will honor the request.

“It is a top priority that we address all credible allegations of sexual abuse in the manner outlined by the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. In addition, the diocese continues to do all it can to ensure we create a safe environment for children and all vulnerable individuals in our churches and schools,” said Bishop Pates.

After learning of the allegation, the victim was provided the services of the Victim Assistance Advocate of the Diocese of Des Moines. Local law enforcement where the alleged abuse occurred and the Allegation Review Committee were informed.

The matter was studied by the Allegation Review Committee, which has among its members a judge, a licensed clinical social worker, a police detective, an attorney, a priest and a permanent deacon. During the committee’s investigation, Bishop Pates had asked Father Fitzgerald to step aside from his parish responsibilities at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Indianola and Immaculate Conception Parish in St. Marys and at Simpson College.

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