John Day Residents Ponder Priest Scandal

By Teri Nelson
April 4, 2006

JOHN DAY, OREGON — A former Houston priest accused of sexual abuse 25 years ago is now posted in John Day Oregon. It's a move that's prompted some to question whether this is a case where a rural community is getting a bad deal-- or a man is unfairly haunted by his past.

Rev. Richard Edelin, who was then 21-years-old, is accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a 17-year-parishioner who was then working in youth ministry at St. John Vianney Catholic Church in west Houston. The woman claimed the affair began with hugs and advance to groping in church offices, during confession and retreats. She said she declined an offer to go to his bedroom. Edelin has denied the allegation and church officials in Houston said their investigation could not substantiate the abuse claim.

David Bartish, a business owner in John Day, says he was immediately concerned when he read a headline about the priest's past.

"I kind of thought 'Uh, oh, what have we got coming? Are they putting him here in John Day to try to hide him?" Bartish told Local Two News. But after weighing the facts, Bartish says he thinks Edelin deserves the benefit of the doubt. "You know, child predators don't stop what they're doing-- and there's been no other allegation against that guy since then and so it kind of makes you wonder exactly what happened and the circumstances."

Dennis Lynch, who attends the church, says he and other parishioners have drawn the same conclusion about how to handle this priest sex scandal accusation.

"It was totally unsubstantiated and after 25 years I think it's time to let it rest." Lynch said.

The Houston Chronicle reported that in 1996 the Galveston-Houston Diocese sent the alleged victim an apology and $5,000 for counseling expenses she said she incurred.

"It is not an admission that the priest did whatever she was alleging he did, " Bishop Joseph Fiorenza said. "But clearly there is pain there."

Houston church officials said there were no other complaints against Edelin. At the time of the complaint, church officials said, Edelin was not serving as a priest for unrelated reasons they declined to discuss.

The chancellor of the Galveston-Houston Diocese, Msgr. Frank Rossi, said Edelin asked to return to the ministry in late 2002.

In May 2003, church officials announced that Edelin would join the staff of St. Laurence Catholic Church in Sugar Land. Only after Edelin's accuser expressed outrage did the diocese decide not to let Edelin return.


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