Priest Is Taking Leave of Absence While Abuse Case Is Re-Examined

By Michael Shaw
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri)
September 21, 2002

* Catholic Church's expanded definition of sexual abuse leads to reopening of 8-year-old case.

A Catholic parish priest in the Belleville Diocese is taking a paid leave of absence while a diocesan board re-examines 8-year-old allegations that he had inappropriate contact with children in late 1980s, church officials announced Friday.

The new look at the Rev. Daniel L. Friedman, 56, comes after a newspaper reporter's inquiry in light of the Catholic Church's expanded definition of sexual abuse, established three months ago at a national conference in Dallas.

Friedman is pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Aviston, in Clinton County.

The allegations stem from Friedman's service in the 1980s as chaplain at Camp Ondessonk in Ozark, Ill.

Friedman was initially removed from ministry in 1994 over the allegations, but Bishop Wilton Gregory reinstated him on the review board's recommendation.

The board's findings are not made public.

Monsignor James Margason, vicar general of the Belleville Diocese, said at a press conference Friday that the allegations involved a camp ceremony where children were dressed as American Indians.

The allegations were that Friedman "had not acted appropriately in helping (children) to put their loincloths on or in straightening their loincloths."

The church's new definition of sexual abuse, which Margason called a "wide definition," doesn't require intercourse, coercion or physical contact, only that the child is "used as an object of sexual gratification for the adult."

The decision by Gregory to re-examine the case was prompted by questi ons from a Dallas Morning News reporter.

"I regret not having asked the review board to reconsider this matter in light of the charter immediately after the Dallas meeting," Gregory said in a prepared statement.

Gregory is president of the National Council of Catholic Bishops and was instrumental in establishing the new charter to protect young people.

In the Belleville Diocese, a panel of three clergy and five laypeople reviews allegations of sexual misconduct and makes recommendations to Gregory.

The panel, currently short one person, plans to meet to discuss the Friedman case early next week, Margason said.

David Clohessy, national director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said he found it disturbing that a reporter's call prompted action from Gregory.

"Of all the bishops in the country, (Gregory) is the one who we would expect to enforce the charter most vigorously," he said.

In the Belleville Diocese, 13 priests and one deacon were removed in the 1990s because of sexual abuse.


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