Priest at Church Here Leaves under a Cloud

St. Louis Post-Dispatch [St. Louis MO]
January 12, 2007

A priest previously accused of possessing inappropriate photos left his position as an associate pastor at St. Ambrose Catholic Church in St. Louis Thursday for personal reasons, according to the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

The Rev. Darell Mitchell is a priest of the Yakima, Wash., diocese, but has lived in St. Louis in recent years and has been assigned to local parishes since 2004 by Archbishop Raymond Burke. Mitchell will be leaving the archdiocese.

Members of St. Ambrose attended a meeting about Mitchell Thursday night. Some called the meeting positive, with parents allowed to express concerns and focusing on the safety of children at the parish and moving forward.

Calls to Mitchell and to St. Ambrose's pastor, the Rev. Vincent Bommarito, were not returned.

In 2003, the leader of the Yakima diocese, Bishop Carlos Sevilla, sent Mitchell to a retreat center for troubled clergy outside St. Louis after photographs of naked boys were found on Mitchell's computer.

The incident was investigated by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies and Mitchell was never charged with a crime. An internal church investigation cleared the priest of wrongdoing.

Burke gave Mitchell an assignment after receiving "a signed and notarized certificate of aptitude for priestly ministry" from the Yakima bishop, according to a statement from the archdiocese here.

The notice certified "without qualification that there is nothing in Father Mitchell's background or service that would raise questions about his fitness for ministry," according to the statement.

Before his time at St. Ambrose, Mitchell was a pastor-in-residence at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Clayton.

Some parents left the Thursday night meeting upset with the archdiocese and Burke.

"Everyone's relieved that (Mitchell's) gone," said one man, who declined to give his name. "But it's another reactionary measure. I think Archbishop Burke let us all down. He knew this guy's past."

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests has distributed information about the accusations against Mitchell, and members handed leaflets to parishioners going to Thursday night's meeting on the Hill, where St. Ambrose is located.


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