Former Priest Faces New Sex Charges

By Tony Miller
CW 11

October 2, 2008

[with video]

Whatch video

Former St. Louis area Priest Joseph Ross was arrested last week in Arkansas on a warrant issued by the St. Louis city attorney.

He is charged with 11 first degree counts of sexual misconduct with a minor...charges that include statutory rape, statutory sodomy, and child molestation.

It began with a phone call that activists say was 8 years overdue.

"The victim contacted me because of the fear that other kids were being hurt," said Mary Pat Benninger of SNAP.

Prosecutors say the victim is a teenager now, but was under the age of 14 at the time of the abuse. SNAP, the watchdog support group for victims, says Ross has a long history of abusing children.

"He's been accused of a number of sex crimes. He's been arrested at least two other times besides this one. He admitted to moleting at least one child," said David Clohessy, national SNAP president.

In 2002, two years after the alleged abuse was said to have occured here at St. Cronans, the Archdiocese of St. Louis removed Ross as pastor because of a guilty plea he had entered in 1988. He was later defrocked by the Pope.

SNAP claims Ross was transfered to St. Cronins even though the church was aware of other incidents.

In a written statement the Archdiocese said it's their policy not to comment on pending legal matters. It apologized to all who have been abused by clergy.

So why did it take the victim eight years to come forward? Well those who've been molested by priests say telling someone is not easy.

"I was terrified of the Priest, I was terrified of the church. I was terrified that I was going to go to hell if I said anything," said Barbara Dorris. She was in her forties before she found the courage to report her abuse at the hands of a different priest.

Ross remains in custody in Arkansas,where prosecutors say he will not fight extradition. Details of the trip back to St. Louis are being worked out.


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