Parishioners Welcome Back Priest Cleared in Abuse Probe

By Ariel Zangla
Daily Freeman [Cairo NY]
January 23, 2007

Parishioners at Sacred Heart Church said they are delighted to see the Rev. Jeremiah Nunan reinstated after the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese found no reasonable grounds to believe an allegation of sexual misconduct against him.

Nunan, pastor of Sacred Heart in Cairo and Our Lady of Knock Mission in East Durham, was accused last year by the Rev. Mark Jaufmann, now a 50-year-old Catholic priest in California, of sexually abusing him multiple times when Jaufmann was a minor. The incidents were alleged to have occurred when Jaufmann was between the ages of 12 and 15 and a parishioner at St. Mary's Church in Hudson where Nunan had been assigned.

On Saturday, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany issued a press release saying it found "no reasonable grounds to believe an allegation of sexual misconduct" against Nunan.

"He's been reinstated and we're all really happy that he's back," parishioner Camille Thiesen said Monday. She said parishioners believed Nunan was innocent.

Sal Culoso, another parishioner, said he too was happy that Nunan had been reinstated. He said Nunan celebrated the Mass on Saturday afternoon.

"He's a dedicated priest," Culoso said of Nunan. He said Nunan received "ten million hugs and kisses" upon his return.

Culoso said he believed the abuse allegation against Nunan was unjustified, and that Nunan is back where he belongs.

Dorothy Hynes said Nunan was what one might call a "priestly priest" who goes above and beyond the call of duty.

"He's a wonderful priest and he would never ever do something like that," Hynes said of the abuse allegations.

Nunan could not be reached for comment Monday. Last February, Nunan had taken a leave of absence after the allegations came to light.

In its release, the diocese said Jaufmann's allegations were thoroughly investigated but could not be substantiated. The allegations were investigated by a former FBI special agent working for the Independent Mediation Assistance Program (IMAP), a program was created by the diocese in 2004 to look into allegations of abuse against young people by current or former clergy members.

On Monday, Jaufmann, who serves with the Ecumenical Catholic Communion in California, questioned the results of the investigation. He said he wanted to know what went into the investigation and why there was no follow-up to his complaint to police in 2002 about the alleged abuse.

"I began this procedure because allegations, including my own, exist against Jeremiah Nunan," Jaufmann said. "The dismissal by the Albany diocese of my complaint does not make this fact go away."

Jaufmann called the investigation "a fraud" and said he would continue to pursue a lawsuit he filed in federal court against the Independent Mediation Assistance Program in November.

Jaufmann said he will also continue to lobby New York state government to lift the statute of limitations on cases involving sexual abuse of children, and will continue to make people aware of his complaints against Nunan.


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