Bishop Addresses Sex Allegations against Priest

October 10, 2011

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A priest in the Youngstown Catholic Diocese has been placed on administrative leave after an investigation into sexual misconduct found a victim's allegation "credible."

During a press conference Monday morning, Bishop George V. Murry said an allegation against Fr. John Warner was made June 20 by a man who said the abuse happened more than 30 years ago when the victim was about 13. The alleged abuse happened while Fr. Warrner was a pastor at St. Edward Parish on the North Side of Youngstown, where he served from 1976 to 1982.

Bishop Murry said the alleged abuse occurred at the church, not at the school.

Fr. Warner has been a diocesan priest since 1970, most recently serving as pastor of Sts. Philip and James in Canal Fulton since 2003.

Murry said the diocese was made aware of the allegation on June 20 and it was immediately presented to the Diocesan Review Board, which consists of lay people with backgrounds in mental health, child abuse, education and counseling. It also was investigated by two former FBI agents.

Bishop Murry said the investigation determined the victim's allegations were credible and he asked Fr. Warner to take a leave of absence on June 30. The allegation also was presented to Children Services officials in Stark and Mahoning counties, as well as the Mahoning County prosecutor. Bishop Murry said he does not know if criminal charges will be filed.

He said Fr. Warner has denied the allegation, but he is currently at a psychiatric treatment facility that deals with priests accused of sexual abuse of minors.

Bishop Murry said the treatment facility will make a recommendation about how the diocese should proceed when he is released. Since he is on administrative leave, Fr. Warner cannot publicly celebrate the sacraments or wear clerical attire.

"The diocese is committed to being open and honest about these type of accusations. I encourage anyone who has been a victim to report such abuse so they can have peace and I can apologize. This is not what the priesthood is about," Bishop Murry said.

Bishop Murry said all parishes where Fr. Warner has served were notified by letter of the allegations and subsequent investigation. Parishioners were notified at all weekend Masses.

Before serving at St. Edward, Fr. Warner was assistant pastor at St. Peter Parish in Canton from 1970 to 1973 and at St. Mary Parish in Warren from 1973 to 1976. He was an assistant at St. Edward until 1982 and then served as assistant pastor at St. Joan of Arc in Perry Township until 1984.

He was pastor at St. Vincent De Paul Parish in Vienna from 1984 to 1992 and at St. Aloysius Parish in East Liverpool from 1992 to 1995. He was assistant pastor at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Aurora from 1995 to 1996 and St. Paul Parish in Canton until 1999.

He served as pastor at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Youngstown from 1999 to 2003 before coming to Sts. Philp and James Parish in Canal Fulton.

"I am deeply sorry for survivors of abuse. The vast majority of priests are good and holy men. A select few are responsible for these abuses. We will get through this difficult time with prayer, while acknowledging these incidents do occur," Bishop Murry said.

He said the victim has been "carrying around the incident for a long time" and after discussing it with his family, he decided to come forward. The bishop said the victim has not accepted counseling services offered by the diocese.

"The victim is not sure if there were other victims. He was unable to provide names of potential victims and that is why we made the allegation public, so that others can come forward," Bishop Murry said.

He said Fr. Warrner will complete an evaluation process at the treatment facility and the diocese will review it, write a report and submit it to Vatican officials in Rome. Bishop Murry said Fr. Warner will not be returned to active ministry.

This is a developing story. Check back here or watch tonight's newscasts for more information.


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