Sexual Abuse Allegation against Princeton U. Chaplain Found Not Credible, Officials Say

By Chris Sheldon
June 19, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been corrected to attribute the information to the Third Order Regular Franciscans and not the Diocese of Trenton.

An allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor leveled against Princeton University chaplain Father Gabriel Zeis last year was found not to be credible, the Third Order Regular Franciscans announced Thursday.

The Third Order Regular Franciscans notified the Diocese of Trenton in August about the allegation against Zeis, who was employed by diocese and also served as the diocese’s vicar for catholic education, officials said.

He resigned his positions with the diocese and was placed on leave pending the outcome of an investigation of the accusation.

The sexual misconduct was alleged to have occurred in 1975 at St. Francis Seminary in Loretto, Pennsylvania, five years prior to his ordination to the priesthood, the order said in a statement.

The allegation was reported to Office of the District Attorney for Cambria County (PA) in September 2019 and on Dec. 16, 2019, Pennsylvania’s Attorney General’s office called into question the credibility and accuracy of the allegation and announced the case closed, officials said.

The Franciscan Order said it then hired an independent investigator, who was also a Canon lawyer, who gathered information that was presented to an independent review board, composed entirely of lay people who are experts in youth protection.

The board agreed with the attorney general’s findings that the allegation was “not substantiated and therefore is not credible,” according to the order’s statement. Zeis’ priestly faculties have been reinstated and “every effort is made to restore his good name and reputation,” it said.

The order said it will will discuss with Fr. Zeis, “the details regarding his imminent return to ministry.”

Zeis was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1980 and has served in various capacities since then, including president of Saint Francis University from 2004 to 2014 and as vicar for education for the Diocese of Trenton and chaplain at Princeton University from July 2016 to September 2019.

Officials have said there were no abuse allegations against Zeis during his time at any of those institutions.

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