Pembroke, Claxton Priest Removed from Church Duties over Abuse Allegations

By Jan Skutch
Savannah Morning News
February 17, 2012

A Catholic priest who was pastor of missions in Pembroke and two others in the Diocese of Savannah has been removed from his duties pending an investigation of alleged sexual abuse from nearly 30 years ago.

The Rev. Bob Poandl, 70, has denied the allegations, but has stepped away from his ministries and returned to the Cincinnati-based Glenmary Home Missioners pending completion of an investigation into the allegations.

Poandl served as pastor at Holy Cross Church in Pembroke, St. Christopher Church in Claxton and Our Lady of Guadalupe in Sand Hill near Claxton. He has served off and on in the diocese since 2007.

He left in 2009 after other abuse allegations in West Virginia, but those charges later were dismissed.

A press release Wednesday from the order said the Rev. Chet Artysiewicz, president of the Cincinnati-based order, learned of an alleged sexual misconduct against Poandl after the priest became aware of the allegations "through a third party."

Poandl immediately contacted Artysiewicz about the alleged misconduct that "is said to have occurred nearly 30 years ago," the release said.

Barbara King, spokesperson for the Diocese of Savannah, said Thursday Poandl was a religious-order priest and overseen by his order, not Diocese of Savannah Bishop Gregory John Hartmayer. The order had asked that all comment come through them, she said.

She said the order serves small towns in rural areas.

Efforts to reach order officials Thursday afternoon were unsuccessful.

According to the order, Artyseiwicz has unsuccessfully attempted to contact the alleged victim since learning of the allegation but was advised "that, at this time, the person wishes to remain anonymous."

Poandl "was relieved of his ministry assignment as pastor to the Glenmary missions in Georgia (Claxton, Pembroke and Sand Hill) and asked to return to the Glenmary residence in Cincinnati."

"He arrived in Cincinnati on (Monday) and has since been in residence," the order said. "He is not allowed to publicly function as a Catholic priest during the investigation process."

Civil authorities have been notified of the allegation as well as bishops in the diocese involved.

"I am committed to maintaining accountability and transparency as this investigative process unfolds," Artyseiwicz said in a prepared statement. "Father Poandl and I have both pledged our full cooperation in this investigation, and I will do whatever I can to meet the pastoral needs of all those involved."

A West Virginia judge dismissed charges of sexual abuse against Poandl in 2010 and Poandl's record was subsequently expunged, the order said. He returned to active ministry in September 2010 following a dismissal of charges and with the unanimous recommendation of the Glenmary Review Board, the order said.


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