Evansville Courier & Press [Evansville IN]
November 27, 2022
By Thomas B. Langhorne
[Via Yahoo News]
The Rev. Bernie Etienne, a priest who had been accused of sexual misconduct, has been returned to active ministry, the Catholic Diocese of Evansville said Friday.
The move comes “following completion of a thorough investigation,” according to a statement released Friday morning by the Diocese. Etienne’s return is effective immediately. At the time he was placed on administrative leave in March, Etienne was serving as pastor at Evansville’s Holy Rosary Catholic Church, 1301 S. Green River Road.
Friday’s statement by the Diocese said the alleged sexual misconduct by Etienne “was alleged to have occurred more than 20 years ago” and was “determined to be unfounded.”
“As part of the announcement (that Etienne had been placed on administrative leave) the public was encouraged to come forward with relevant information. No other allegations against Father Bernie (Etienne) were received,” the Diocese statement said.
“Upon learning of the allegation, diocesan officials notified civil authorities and initiated an investigation. A private investigator interviewed 22 persons, including Father Bernie (Etienne), and thoroughly reviewed all the evidence available. The investigator ultimately determined that the allegation was not credible.”
From 1996 to 2006, Etienne served as pastor of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Gibson County, according to Courier & Press archives. Etienne was an associate pastor in Jasper for St. Joseph Catholic Church from 1993 to 1996. Starting in 1995, Etienne served as the diocesan director of vocations, a position he held until 2010.
He also served as a chaplain for Teens Encounter Christ from 1998 to 2001, and pastor of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Oakland City from 1999 to 2006, and dean of the Princeton Deanery from 2005 to 2006.
Since then, Etienne has held a variety of prominent diocese positions in Evansville.
According to the statement of the Catholic Diocese, the private investigator’s report was presented to a Review Board, “composed of Diocese of Evansville business and community leaders with expertise in psychology, law and child abuse.”
This board, members of which were selected for their “demonstrated fairness and extensive experience,” voted unanimously that the allegation against Etienne was unsubstantiated, the Diocese statement said. They recommended that he be reinstated to public ministry, the statement said.
The statement also said Evansville Bishop Joseph M. Siegel reviewed the recommendation and the evidence and determined that the allegation against Etienne was unfounded.
Any victims of sexual misconduct committed by a person ministering on behalf of the Catholic Church can contact local police and the Diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator at 812-490-9565 or toll-free at 866-200-3004.
This article originally appeared on Evansville Courier & Press: Evansville priest’s sexual misconduct allegation cleared by diocese