Yanta Says He Asked Two Priests to Resign

By Don Munsch
Amarillo Globe
July 20, 2002

Bishop John W. Yanta of the Diocese of Amarillo said he asked two priests to resign recently because of the new charter passed by American bishops at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting in Dallas in June.

Yanta talked Friday about various matters concerning the Catholic Church's crisis. Yanta had been in Europe the first half of July on a mission trip, and he leaves Monday for Toronto for World Youth Day. He will go to Mexico for the canonization of Juan Diego after his trip to Canada. He will return to Amarillo on July 31.

Deacon Floyd Ashley, the Rev. Michael Colwell, chancellor for the diocese and canon lawyer for the bishop, and Cathy Lexa, director of communications for the diocese, also attended the Friday briefing with Yanta.

The Rev. Dennis Boylan, pastor of Holy Family Church in Nazareth and Holy Name Church in Happy, and the Rev. Neal Dee, pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Groom and St. Mary's Church in Clarendon, resigned in late June. The two priests left as a direct result of the new sexual abuse policy passed by bishops in June, said Monsignor Harold Waldow, vicar for clergy for the Diocese of Amarillo.

"I sat down with them and explained things and basically said that if they would volunteer their resignation, that would make it a whole lot easier," Yanta said.

What if Dee and Boylan hadn't volunteered to resign?

"Well, then we would take canonical procedures, which we didn't have to do," Yanta said.

Yanta said those procedures meant "somehow they would have to be removed from active ministry." He said from what he knew of the priests, the diocese hadn't received any charges or allegations against them and that "they were very priestly in their ministry and they were doing outstanding jobs as pastors."

Yanta said he couldn't speculate on whether any other priests might be leaving.

"I would say that we're looking into how the charter applies to every priest in the diocese," he said. "These are personnel matters. From the very beginning, we have worked real hard with all the priests in the diocese. We have wonderful priests. I honor the actions and the decisions of the previous bishop (Leroy T. Matthiesen). These men were incardinated, so therefore they have a permanency in the diocese. So I took the sexual abuse booklets that have been printed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and apply those norms here and to make sure they have the very best canonical and psychological (help) and all the best help they could get, so they could have a new life."

Yanta said he has just received but had not reviewed a copy of the lawsuit filed against the diocese last week that alleges a former Amarillo priest fathered a child with a 17-year-old girl he counseled and that diocesan officials conspired to cover up sexual abuse of young women and children by other priests.

He said he had no comment on the lawsuit. Colwell and Ashley said the diocese has always reported incidents of sexual abuse to authorities.


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