Accusations of Sexual Abuse Surround Priest

By Chasity Byrd and Letisha Bush
Fox 10
May 15, 2013

[with video]

MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - FOX10 News sat down with Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi Tuesday, May 14 — just one day after the Archdiocese of Mobile confirmed Father James Havens was put on administrative leave after accusations of sexual abuse.

 A Twitter message posted by Archbishop Thomas Rodi read, "About to begin a parish meeting dealing with a painful matter. Please say a prayer for all concerned."

"She made the accusation that Father Havens had sexually abused her in 1989, 24 years ago when this action allegedly took place," said Archbishop Rodi.

Archbishop Rodi said Father Havens is now on leave and cannot exercise priestly ministry or live on parish property. The archbishop would not say where Father Havens is living now, but did disclose the district attorney's office knows where he is. The woman, who is now 34, said the incident happened at her family's home.

"The accusation of sexual abuse, this is a one-time event, but more than that I really don't want to say more of what the woman shared. I think that would be inappropriate," Archbishop Rodi said.

The archbishop said the church has made a promise to the parish and the community that accusations of sexual abuse will not be tolerated and will be taken seriously.

"This allegation is being handled according to those promises. We will have our own investigation but at this time, we do not want to interfere at all with any investigation by civil authority so we will wait for their investigation first."

No charges have been filed by the district attorney's office.

As to why the victim came forward now, Rodi said,"All we can do is deal with the situation. And she brought a very serious accusation, and we're treating it very seriously. Even receiving accusations on accusations 24-years old it just makes us more determined to do what we can to protect child when they're involved in church ministry.”

The 24-year time span has some people raising an eyebrow.

"I’m probably guilty of being a little cynical or suspect, and the first question I get is, 'Why is she now coming forward?” said longtime Catholic Tim Grogan.

Grogan is slow to judge.

"At this point, I don't think anybody knows whether these allegations are accurate, truthful or not,” Grogan said.

Others said they don't know enough about the allegations.

 I don't have an opinion because I really don't know what happened,” said Maria Goolsby.

Goolsby's grandson attends St. Vincent De Paul's Elementary School. She said her grandson is in a safe environment.

"I know the principal of the school, and they stay with the children all the time,” Goolsby said.

Grogan said she is glad to see local Catholic officials have some transparency with the matter.

"The Catholic Church, I almost hesitate to say, it finally gets it. With what's been in the news over the last several years and the abuse issues and so forth, that I’m proud to see they were the one brought it forth and made it public,” said Grogan.

Grogan said she has one wish for all parties involved.

"I would very deeply hope that the truth will come out and truth will prevail,” Grogan said.

We did speak to the Mobile County District Attorney's Office which confirmed their office is investigating but could not comment any further.


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