Priest Reassigned to St. Louis Was Investigated in Wash. State

By Jim Salter
Associated Press, carried in Seattle Post-Intelligencer
December 21, 2006

St. Louis -- The Archdiocese of St. Louis was criticized Thursday for failing to disclose that a priest once accused of possessing nude photos of boys has been allowed to work at two St. Louis-area parishes.

The assignment to St. Louis of the Rev. Darell Mitchell was defended by both the archdiocese and by his former employers at the Diocese of Yakima in Washington state. Mitchell was in Yakima in 2003 when he was accused of having nude pictures of boys on his computer. He was eventually cleared of wrongdoing.

Still, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said the archdiocese was wrong in welcoming Mitchell, and in failing to alert parishioners of the allegations against him.

"If we're importing (accused) priests secretly, the least we can do is keep them out of parishes, and certainly parishes with schools," SNAP national director David Clohessy said.

Mitchell declined an interview request but said, "I've never been guilty of anything. I was falsely accused."

The accusations prompted an investigation by the FBI and other law enforcement, in addition to an internal investigation by the church.

"They looked at all of the pictures but did not find them to be pornographic," Yakima Monsignor Ron Mertha said.

The priest was suspended during the investigation and sent to a treatment facility in St. Louis for evaluation. "They found no problem with him at all," Mertha said.

Once cleared, Mitchell was welcome to return to the Yakima diocese, but pressure from the media "and a couple of individuals made life so miserable for him he decided he should work somewhere else," Mertha said.

A statement from the St. Louis archdiocese said Mitchell has lived in the St. Louis area for two years, but didn't say when he began pastoral duties. Mitchell said he did not recall the exact timeline.

The archdiocese said Mitchell first served at St. Joseph Church in Clayton, a St. Louis suburb. In June, he became associate pastor at St. Ambrose in St. Louis, a parish that includes an elementary school. Archdioceses spokesman Tony Huenneke said Mitchell is under close supervision.

Clohessy said St. Louis is becoming a "national dumping ground for potentially dangerous priests."

Last year, SNAP said that a priest accused of sexually assaulting a female parishioner in Wichita, Kan., was allowed to work at St. Ambrose. The Wichita victim received a financial settlement in the case, SNAP said.

Also, SNAP expressed concern about four centers in the region that provide treatment or housing for priests accused of sexual misconduct.

"Clearly, any rational person has to be concerned that these dangerous predators will strike again," Clohessy said. "Especially because we rarely know who or where they are."


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