McCaffrey Denies Abuse

By Mary Beth Smetzer
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
August 23, 2005

The former pastor of Immaculate Conception Church continues to deny any sexual abuse misconduct, his Jesuit superior said Monday.

The Rev. John Whitney, provincial of the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province, said the Rev. Richard McCaffrey denies all allegations leveled against him.

McCaffrey was recently removed from ministry in the Fairbanks Diocese by Bishop Donald Kettler, who made his decision known in a letter read to parishioners Sunday at churches around the diocese.

Whitney said he has not yet received any of the materials related to the diocese's investigation of sexual abuse allegations made against McCaffrey by three people who claim they were molested in the 1970s and early 1980s. One of those people has filed a civil suit against the priest, the diocese and the Jesuits.

"I know the bishop believes that these are appropriate charges at this point. I trust him and he has the authority to do this," Whitney said.

"Father McCaffrey is with me in Oregon and is under restriction and is not practicing in the priesthood until we sort all this out."

The Jesuits are providing a canon lawyer as well as a civil lawyer for McCaffrey's defense.

Kettler reiterated his reasons for removing McCaffrey from his ministry at a Monday news conference. Kettler said he consulted with the diocese's Sexual Abuse Review Board, which conducted an investigation into allegations with the assistance of former Alaska State Troopers Investigator Jim McCann. The abuse incidents reportedly occurred in three different locations in the state.

Kettler said the investigation was needed to determine the veracity and seriousness of the accusations.

The investigation report will not be made public, according to the diocese.

"Anything that will happen now is in the hands of the Jesuits. ... They have policies and those policies will now go in effect," Kettler said.

Kettler said he did not believe the Jesuits placed priests "with difficulties" in the Bush, he said when asked about allegations made in more than 80 civil lawsuits filed in western Alaska.

"I believe the Jesuits were great missionaries here," he said.

Kettler said the charges against the five accused Jesuit priests, including three who are deceased, allegedly occurred during the past 50 years when 400 to 500 priests worked in Alaska.

"I do not want to downplay or minimize any of this, but I also want to recognize the importance and value and good ministry of many of the priests who served here," Kettler said.

McCaffrey, 62, had been pastor of Immaculate Conception parish since 1998.

Ordained in 1973, he has worked extensively in Alaska since 1967. He ministered in a number of parishes located in Tununak, Nightmute, Toksook Bay, Hooper Bay, Scammon Bay, Bethel, Russian Mission, Marshall, Barrow, Tanana and Fairbanks.

Kettler said the diocese--which serves 47 parishes scattered around the Interior, the North Slope and the west coast of Alaska--continues to offer counseling expenses and has held some prayer services and liturgy services for healing.

"What is most important is what we are doing with training and education so what has happened won't happen anymore," Kettler said. "We are taking every way we know how to protect our young people and that is where we will continue to work."


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.