Carver Priest Removed from St. Nicholas Catholic Church Following Allegation of Inappropriate Conduct
By Alex Chhith
January 24, 2018
|Rev. Thomas Joseph|
The Rev. Thomas Joseph has been removed from St. Nicholas Catholic Church amid an allegation by an adult of inappropriate conduct, according to a statement from the leader of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Joseph, who has served at the Carver church for nearly a decade, was due to leave the congregation on Feb. 1 to serve at the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis Tribunal Office. After that, the Rev. William Deziel, pastor of Guardian Angels Catholic Church in Chaska, and the Rev. Edison Galarza, new parochial vicar, will serve both Carver and Chaska churches, according to a letter from Archbishop Bernard Hebda.
The change prompted outcry from many parishioners at St. Nicholas, who asked the archdiocese to extend Joseph’s time to ensure a smooth transition. Many were upset with the lack of notice given to parishioners and questioned the hasty transition. The story ran in the Jan. 18 edition of the Chaska Herald and the archdiocese declined to comment on it.
“I wish to express my surprise and dismay at these allegations. It is paramount that we as Catholics come together in God’s light to seek the truth,” Joseph said in a statement attached to Hebda's announcement, dated Jan. 23.
“While I am prepared to cooperate with this investigation to clear my good name and the name of the Church, I wish to emphasize my innocence. I ask all of you to pray for me and be assured of my prayers for you,” Joseph continued.
In a telephone call with the Herald, Joseph said he is innocent.
After the archdiocese received the complaint, it immediately contacted law enforcement, according to the statement from Hebda.
“We indicated to them that it was our policy that clergy under criminal investigation are removed from ministry for the duration of the investigation,” the release stated.
“Yesterday, (Jan. 22) the investigating law enforcement agency notified us that our removal of Father Joseph from ministry would not interfere with an investigation they have begun of an allegation against Father Joseph of criminal conduct involving an adult. With that clarification, Father Joseph was removed temporarily from ministry, pending the outcome of the criminal investigation,” it continued.
Anyone with any information is encouraged to contact law enforcement, the release stated. The archdiocese declined to comment further on this story.
According to a statement from the Carver County Sheriff's Office, deputies received information from The Archdiocese’s Office of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment on Jan. 11 alleging criminal conduct.
"The alleged victim, an adult female, asserts Joseph engaged in sexual contact with her on three to four occasions over the course of 2-1/2 years," stated the news release.
The Sheriff's Office noted it normally doesn't release the identity of a suspect prior to arrest and/or charging. "However, the Archdiocese of Saint Paul had provided a public statement on Jan. 23 naming Father Thomas Joseph as the subject of the investigation and Minnesota data laws do allow sharing of criminal investigative data to promote public safety and dispel widespread rumor," noted the release.
The matter remains under investigation, according to the Carver County Sheriff’s Office.