New Abuse Claims Filed on Convert

By Mary Beth Smetzer
News-Miner [Fairbanks AK]
Downloaded July 15, 2003

Another man has come forward alleging sexual abuse by the Rev. Jules Convert, a French-born Jesuit priest who ministered in villages along the Yukon River from 1942-80.

The Rev. Richard Case, chancellor of the Fairbanks Catholic Diocese, said the man contacted the chancery approximately two weeks ago saying he had been abused by Convert from 1955 to 1960.

To date, no legal complaint has been filed, Case said.

Last month a lawsuit was filed in Bethel by four unnamed men alleging they were molested as altar boys in the 1970s by the now deceased Convert when he was pastor of the Church of the Nativity, at St. Marys on the Yukon River.

To protect the privacy of the most recent complainant, Case, who also serves as victim assistance coordinator for the diocese, declined to divulge the community where the abuse allegedly occurred.

Case said the man was offered counseling of his choice, which was refused, and was advised to find a lawyer to protect his rights.

Other villages Convert ministered to were Chevak, Old Chevak, St. Michael, Stebbins, Kaltag, Hooper Bay and Unalakleet. Due to ill health, Convert returned to France in 1980.

"To the best of my knowledge, (Convert) was transferred because of health problems, not because of any other problems," said Case, who has researched diocesan files related to the priest.

Convert worked in a small parish in the French Alps following his return to France, and he died July 28, 1995, in Francheville, Lyons, at age 85.

Currently, the Fairbanks diocese along with 194 other Catholic diocese around the nation are participating in a national survey to determine the extent of abuse over the past half century as well as being audited for compliance with past and present sexual abuse policies.

The diocese implemented a formal sexual misconduct policy in the mid-1990s under the administration of the late Bishop Michael J. Kaniecki. Since then, every religious or lay employee hired by the diocese as well as volunteers has undergone a mandatory one-day Ministerial Misconduct Workshop on issues of sexual misconduct. All new clergy, ordination candidates and missionaries to the diocese were given background checks and screened as well.

More recently, Fairbanks Bishop Donald Kettler, on the advice of a review committee he appointed shortly after his ordination last August, has added an identity check and criminal background check to hiring procedures within the diocese.

Current diocesan, parish employees and volunteers who work with children also will undergo background checks for sexual misconduct. Approximately 160 to 170 personnel throughout the sprawling diocese will be involved.

As victim protection officer, Case will oversee the diocese's compliance with all sexual misconduct policies as well as serve as a victim advocate. Case can be reached at 474-0753.

Mary Beth Smetzer can be reached at or 459-7546.


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