Priest Staying Despite Abuse Case
May 8, 2002
EVANSVILLE (AP) — Parishioners clapped and shouted approval after learning that a priest who admitted having sexual contact with a minor more than 20 years ago will remain as their pastor.
The Rev. Michael Allen told more than 400 people who filled the pews at St Peter Catholic Church in Celestine that he initiated a sexual relationship in 1976 with a 16- year-old boy.
"I wish I could undo the hurt I've caused," Allen said Sunday. "I know I can't undo the harm."
Allen was one of two priests in the Evansville Roman Catholic Diocese who allegedly had sexual relations with minors, according to a report published in The Evansville Courier & Press.
The other priest, was identified as Rev. Mark Kurzendoerfer of Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Haubstadt, which has an elementary school with 200 students.
Kurzendoerfer did not attend Mass at his church on Sunday, the same day the newspaper reported that the diocese never told authorities about the allegations, citing letters it obtained that were mailed to the alleged victims within the last two weeks.
The letters acknowledged the abuse and said if the victims did not sign accompanying confidentiality agreements, the diocese would report the allegations to prosecutors.
HAPPY PARISHIONER: Ah unidentified woman hugs the Rev. Michael Allen, right, after it was announced he will stay at St. Peter Celestine Catholic Church in Celestine. Parishioners clapped and shouted approval after learning that Allen, who admitted having sexual contact with a minor more than 20 years ago, will remain as their pastor.
Evansville Bishop Gerald Get- telfinger, who said he found out about the accusations after he became bishop in 1989, said diocese attorneys advised him the law did not require him to file a report because the statute of limitations had expired and the priests could no longer be prosecuted.
Allen was an associate pastor at St Joseph Catholic Church in Princeton at the time of the abuse. The boy had been hospitalized for depression after the death of his father.
On Sunday, Gettelfinger attended a meeting at the Celestine church, in DuBois County about 50 miles northeast of Evansville. He told parishioners that Allen would remain as their pastor, prompting a 40-second standing ovation and shouts of approval.
During the applause, Allen buried his head in his hand and wept.
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