Inquiry Clears Priest

The Advocate
February 13, 2011

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge announced Saturday that its investigation into a Baton Rouge priest accused in April of sexual misconduct found no sufficient evidence to support the allegations.

Bishop Robert W. Muench made the final decision Saturday that Rev. Tom Duhé would return to his pastorate at St. Thomas More Church following the unanimous recommendation of the 10-member Diocesan Independent Review Board.

"Those involved in the investigation and the members of the Review Board looked into the claims thoroughly and considered seriously all of the information," Muench said. "They are convinced they had come to the right conclusion."

The diocese announced in April that Duhé would be placed on administrative leave after an adult man claimed Duhé made improper sexual advances toward him more than 10 years before, when the man was between 12 and 15 years old.

A pastoral team of three people conducted an initial review and decided the claim merited further investigation, Muench said.

Muench said this team was considering only whether the claims were possible and were not charged with determining whether the allegations had occurred.

The Review Board then appointed a team of five people consisting of a psychologist, a social worker and attorney, a former FBI agent, a former government agency worker and an additional attorney to conduct the investigation into the claim.

Muench said the members of the team are highly recognized in their respective fields and were chosen for their "integrity, commitment and excellence."

Muench said some of the team's investigators are members of the church while others had no affiliation to the diocese.

Charles Cusimano, the diocese's attorney, said in July the team was interviewing witnesses and reviewing records as part of the investigation.

Muench said the team met with an unspecified number of people connected to the man's allegation, but "no one came forward with credible or verifiable information" to support the allegations.

Muench said no separate claims of sexual misconduct were brought against Duhé during the investigation.

Muench met with the Review Board after receiving its recommendation and then spoke with the accuser and Duhé, the prepared statement says. Muench directed the investigative team to look into certain areas further before agreeing with the Review Board's decision to clear Duhé.

The Review Board consists of two lawyers, two social workers, a pediatrician, a nurse-administrator, a former warden, a former judge, a former law enforcement officer and a priest. A civil attorney and canon lawyer were ex-officio members.

Duhé and the man who made the allegations of misconduct were notified Saturday of the decision, Muench said. Duhé will return to St. Thomas More Church later this month.

Muench declined to elaborate on the specifics of the man's claims against Duhé.

The diocese's actions in the matter were specified in the U.S. Bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and diocese policy, Muench said at an April press conference.

The bishops' charter is a set of procedures established in June 2002 for responding to allegations of abuse against minors and for preventing such abuse.

Muench said the diocese did not contact either the Baton Rouge Police Department or the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office regarding the allegations, but notified District Attorney Hillar Moore III when the claims were first made.

Moore said in April he advised the church the victim would have to contact law enforcement authorities, who would then have to determine if there was sufficient evidence to arrest Duhé, before his office could take action.

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