Vatican Clears Priest in Abuse Case

By John Chadwick
The [New Jersey]
June 11, 2007 k3JnlyaXJ5N2Y3MTdmN3ZxZWVFRXl5Mg==

The Rev. William J. Dowd, a popular Bergen County priest who was accused in 2002 of sexual misconduct with minors, has been cleared by church officials in Rome.

“Father Dowd is entitled to the restoration of his reputation and the opportunity to return to ministry,” Jim Goodness, a spokesman for the Newark Archdiocese, said Monday.

The decision means the 67-year-old priest can wear clerical garb, celebrate Mass and represent himself as a priest for the first time in more than five years.

But he won’t be reassigned to St. Luke’s in Ho-Ho-Kus, where he served as pastor for five years before his removal, because the archdiocese installed a new pastor several years ago. Dowd may seek a position outside of a parish ministry given the “notoriety” of the accusations, Goodness said.

“He and the archbishop agree that some kind of specialized ministry would be best for him,” Goodness said. “He hasn’t been in parish ministry in a long time and it would probably be best for him to find a place where he can ease himself in.”

Dowd had actually been cleared following a 2005 church trial, but the results had to be reviewed by the Vatican. Officials in Rome contacted the archdiocese late last week to say they had affirmed the earlier decision.

Dowd still has a strong following of parishioners at St. Luke’s who have maintained his innocence and demonstrated on his behalf outside archdiocesan offices.

Some parishioners applauded and wept with joy when news of the decision was read during Masses this weekend.

Dowd could not be reached for comment Monday. He never faced criminal charges because the allegations were decades old and couldn’t be prosecuted under the statute of limitations.


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