Father Gondek Returns to His Parish

The Dispatch
December 24, 2007

Bishop Peter J. Jugis has returned Father Albert James Gondek to the position of pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Lexington. Gondek resumed his duties Sunday.

Gondek and Jugis met with members of the parish at the conclusion of the 10:30 a.m. Mass on Sunday to explain the process leading to the re-instatement.

Gondek was removed from ministry Oct. 12 under provisions of The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. At the time of his removal, he denied a sexual allegation made against him by a 59-year-old Delaware man, who claimed Gondek fondled him while both were swimming at a summer camp in 1960.

Gondek was cleared of any wrongdoing after an investigation by his religious order, the Oblates of St. Francis DeSales (OSFS), and an inquiry by the Review Board of the Diocese of Charlotte. Jugis' decision came after reviewing the findings of both investigations.

"It is a great joy to return Father Al to ministry. The Diocese of Charlotte will make every effort to restore Father Gondek's good name and reputation," Jugis said in a press release from the Diocese of Charlotte. "While this case does not diminish the suffering that sexual-abuse causes people in our society, it is proof that the system in our church works to protect everyone."

At the request of the Oblates, an allegation of sexual misconduct against Gondek was investigated by retired Chief Judge Joseph H.H. Kaplan of Baltimore, Md. Kaplan has no connection to the OSFS, the Diocese of Charlotte, the Roman Catholic Church or any of the parties involved.

Part of Kaplan's investigation included a polygraph examination conducted by former FBI agent and forensic polygrapher Barry D. Colvert. Colvert reported that Gondek's answers had a high degree of reliability and were "not indicative of deception."

Kaplan's investigation repudiates the claims made in an Oct. 12 press conference by Wilmington, Del., attorney Thomas S. Neuberger on behalf of 59-year-old Michael Sowden. Kaplan reported that his attempts to interview Sowden in the presence of Neuberger were unsuccessful.

In his report to the Wilmington/Philadelphia Provincial of the Oblates order, Kaplan described the allegations as being "without basis in fact." The report was later examined by the Review Board of the Diocese of Charlotte, which made a recommendation to Jugis.

"At the Oblates, where Father Gondek is a brother about whom each of us cares deeply, we're excited that the findings of Judge Kaplan's investigation combined with the review by Bishop Jugis and the independent panel in Charlotte cleared the way for Father Gondek's return to service in the Lexington parish," said the Very Rev. Joseph G. Morrissey, OSFS, Provincial, or head, of the Wilmington/Philadelphia Province.

"My job is Christian service and leadership," Gondek said in the diocese press release. "It is a tremendous joy for me to return to my friends at Our Lady of the Rosary parish, and I look forward to finishing my career and my life in Christian service. God tests each of us, sometimes in ways we don't understand. I don't feel that my faith has been tested, but I know I have been tested over these past weeks as a result of these false allegations."

In Neuberger's October press release on behalf of his client, he alleged that in 1960, Gondek, then a seminarian, fondled Sowden, then 12, while both were swimming at a summer camp in Maryland.

The investigation determined the camp did not open until 1961, and Gondek was not assigned there until 1962. Kaplan reported that his investigation and an independent polygraph found that Gondek does not know how to swim.


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