Priest Ousted over Relationship
Gluckstadt Minister Admits to Improper Contact in 1950s

By Elizabeth Crisp
Clarion Ledger [Jackson MS]
January 7, 2007

A Jackson-area priest is no longer in the ministry after admitting to a four-year sexual relationship with a teenager in the 1950s.

The Rev. Robert Olivier, sacramental minister at St. Joseph Parish in Gluckstadt for the last 20 years, was removed from ministry by the Catholic Diocese of Jackson last month, according to a statement from the diocese.

Olivier, 75, also served as chaplain at St. Dominic/Jackson Memorial Hospital in Jackson. His listed address is St. Dominic's. A representative from St. Dominic was not available for comment Saturday.

Olivier also could not be reached.

During an investigation by the diocese, Olivier admitted to an improper relationship during his first assignment as an ordained priest in the 1950s. The diocese is not releasing the name of the church out of respect for the victim.

Olivier will never be allowed to serve the Catholic church in priestly ministry again, according to a diocese policy.

The victim, whose name also is not being released for privacy reasons, contacted the diocese by letter Dec. 12, said Mary Woodward, director of communications for the diocese.

A release from the diocese said the inappropriate behavior did not include sexual intercourse.

St. Joseph became a parish in March after operating more than 100 years as a mission of St. Francis of Assisi in Madison.

Olivier had served as sacramental minister at the church since 1986.

Pamela Minninger, the church's pastoral minister, on Saturday would not talk about Olivier's removal. "I have absolutely no comment about that," she said.

The sacramental minister position will be filled by a committee selected by the diocese, Woodward said. She did not know a timeline for the replacement.

"We will have people covering Mass in the meantime," she said. "The people will not go without sacraments."

Woodward would not say whether a criminal investigation or civil action is under way but said "the proper authorities have been notified."

In March, the Catholic Diocese of Jackson agreed to pay more than $5.1 million to settle six lawsuits involving 19 individuals who were sexually abused as children by priests or had loved ones who were abused.

The lawsuits involved alleged sexual abuse by priests occurring from the early 1960s to the early 1980s.

Mark Belenchia, state coordinator of the Mississippi chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said he thinks the victim in this case was looking for closure when she wrote the letter to the diocese.

"She went to them," Belenchia said. "If she had called me, I would have told her not to do that."

By writing a letter, instead of contacting authorities or filing a lawsuit, the woman is leaving punishment up to the diocese, he said.

Belenchia, who waited 30 years before reporting that he was abused by a priest in his youth, said he is not surprised the victim waited to come forward.

"It happens more times than not," he said. "There are many reasons for it, but people wait. All kinds of things can set you off emotionally."

Nationally, the Catholic church has been engulfed in controversy over allegations that church leaders often didn't remove priests accused of sexual abuse, instead transferring them to other parishes.


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