Vatican Dismisses Priest Accused of Sexually Abusing Minors

By Mary Pemberton
Associated Press, carried in Duluth News Tribune [Alaska]
January 2, 2006

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A priest accused of sexually abusing boys more than two decades ago has been dismissed from the priesthood, the Catholic Diocese of Juneau said Sunday.

The dismissal of Michael Patrick Nash stems from an investigation that began in late 2002, when a former Juneau resident claimed that he had been abused by Nash in the early 1980s.

"I am relieved we are coming to a sense of resolution and some conclusion to what all around has been a tragic affair," Bishop Michael Warfel said Sunday.

The diocese decided that Joel Post, who now lives in Duluth, Minn., had "suffered grave harm at the hands of Mr. Nash" and agreed to pay him $175,740 to settle his claims.

After the allegations became public, a number of other men came forward and made similar claims, according to the diocese.

Nash denied any wrongdoing, and continues to do so, but agreed in May to the process that resulted in his dismissal from the priesthood.

Post said Nash abused him numerous times between 1979 and 1982. He filed a formal complaint with the diocese on Nov. 22, 2002, in which he said he was abused from age 11 to 15 when Nash was involved in youth ministries.

Nash, who is in his mid-50s, came to Alaska to enter the seminary in 1978. He was a deacon with St. Paul's Catholic Church until his ordination as a priest in 1980. He ministered in Juneau, Ketchikan and Petersburg. He now attends Creighton University in Omaha, Neb.

When the church received Post's formal complaint, Nash was ministering at the Cathedral of the Nativity in Juneau. He denied the accusations in a written statement and voluntarily stepped aside while the allegations were being investigated.

Witnesses at a review board hearing in February said Nash had boys remove all their clothes, except their underwear and allow Nash to tickle them. He also required the boys to massage his neck, shoulders and feet. He required one boy to drop both his trousers and underwear so he could spank him on his bare buttocks.

Nash admitted that the witness accounts were substantially correct. He denied some of the more serious allegations, Warfel said.

Attempts to reach Nash for comment were unsuccessful because he has an unpublished phone number in Omaha. A message left at the home of his lawyer was not immediately returned.

A Juneau lay committee looking into the allegations sent its findings to the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith in Rome. Warfel notified the Vatican that there was sufficient evidence that Nash had sexually abused minors.

Warfel said he was notified on Dec. 23 that the Vatican dismissed Nash on Nov. 18.

"As such, Mr. Nash is no longer a priest of the Diocese of Juneau and is forbidden to present himself as a priest or to engage in priestly ministry. He is also relieved of the obligations associated with ordained priesthood, including that of celibacy," Warfel said in a letter to the Juneau diocese.

As part of the dismissal agreement, Nash will receive retirement benefits when he reaches the age of 65.

The diocese also has agreed to help Post fight what it describes as an "unjust lawsuit" brought by Nash alleging that Post defamed him when making the allegations of sexual abuse.

Warfel said he was disturbed by Nash's insistence that his behavior did not constitute sexual abuse of minors.

"The actions which Mr. Nash admitted were by their nature sexually abusive, violating the intimacy, privacy, freedom that are so important to sexual well-being, most especially for children and adolescents," Warfel said.


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