San Diego Priest Suspended, As Diocese Finds Allegations of Sexual Misconduct Credible
By Peter Rowe
San Diego Union-Tribune
October 9, 2018
|The Rev. Justin Langille has been suspended by the San Diego Catholic Diocese. (Courtesy Diocese of San Diego)|
Twice, in 1995 and in 2002, the Diocese of San Diego cleared the Rev. Justin Langille of allegations that he had sexually abused a teenage girl.
But a third investigation — conducted last month by the Diocesan Independent Review Board — found new evidence that undermined the priest’s alibi. On Tuesday, the diocese announced that Langille, 65, has been suspended and is no longer able to perform priestly duties.
“I felt strongly that even older, previously decided cases involving currently serving priests would benefit from being examined by the Independent Review Board,” Bishop Robert McElroy said in a statement released by the diocese Tuesday. “The voice of the laity needs to be heard on these matters...”
The review board, which includes lay attorneys, criminal investigators, psychologists and a clergy abuse victim, offers “exceptionally valuable guidance and expertise,” McElroy said.
Langille was accused of inappropriately touching an adolescent girl. While stopping short of sexual intercourse, a diocesan official described the priest’s actions as a clear “boundary violation.”
In 1995, diocesan officials examining the allegations said they could not substantiated. The case was re-examined 2002, prompted by the clergy sexual abuse scandal then unfolding in Boston. That time, Langille passed a polygraph test.
But two months ago, in the wake of the Pennsylvania grand jury report that found 300 priests had sexually abused hundreds of children over seven decades, McElroy asked the board to reconsider cases that had been heard before the board’s establishment in 2004.
Using a professional investigator’s report, the board reached a different conclusion. “Significant new information emerged,” a diocesan official said, “that substantially undermined the credibility of Fr. Langille in his denials.”
While Langille has not held a fulltime job within the diocese since 2013, he had been assisting during weekends at St. Therese in San Carlos and Ascension parish in Tierrasanta. His suspension will be announced from both churches’ pulpits Sunday.
Langille came to the San Diego diocese in 1980, when he became associate pastor at St. John’s in Encinitas. He held the same position at Our Mother of Confidence in San Diego (1981-84), Ascension (1984-86) and Sacred Heart in Coronado (1986-1988).
He was appointed director of the Office for Vocations at St. Francis Seminary (1988-90) before returning to St. Therese as associate pastor (1990-91). He then became associate pastor at Spring Valley’s Santa Sophia (1992-96).
Taking a leave of absence from the diocese, he worked for Contemplative Outreach International, a New Jersey-based group that supports small faith groups, from 1996 until 2007.
He returned to San Diego as pastor of El Cajon’s St. Louis de Marillac (2007-11) and then pastor at Immaculate Conception in San Diego (2011-12). His final assignment was as chaplain at Nazareth House, a residence for seniors in Mission Valley, in 2013.
While this suspension followed a recommendation by the Independent Review Board, critics say these boards are not truly independent.
“They are appointed by the bishop and the bishop does not have to follow the boards’ recommendations,” said Tim Lennon, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
Lennon and other SNAP representatives recently met with California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, urging him to launch an official investigation of the state’s Catholic dioceses, similar to probes launched by the state attorney general of New York.
Relying on a diocese to police itself, Lennon said, is naive.
“This is happening because the bishops are feeling the heat,” Lennon said of internal reviews like those being conducted by the San Diego diocese. “They need to feel the heat.”