Former Columbia Priest Returns to Ministry after Being Cleared of Sex Abuse Charge
By Noah Feit
September 16, 2020
A Catholic priest who formerly worked in Columbia was cleared to return to the ministry after charges of sexual abuse involving a minor were dropped.
Prosecutors dropped all criminal charges against Father Javier Heredia in February, according to Maria Aselage, spokeswoman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston. York County court records show the charge, criminal sexual conduct with minor — commit/attempt lewd act, was disposed on Feb. 3.
In September, the diocese’s Sexual Abuse Advisory Board concluded the allegation against the priest was not credible, Aselage said in a news release issued earlier this month.
The board said the accusation against Heredia was unfounded based on information from the criminal investigation, as well as the results of a second investigation by outside private investigators, according to the release.
Now Heredia is awaiting his new assignment with the diocese.
“We welcome Father Heredia back to ministry,” the diocese said in a statement, reported by the Catholic Miscellany.
In July 2018, Heredia was arrested after he was accused of inappropriate contact outside the clothing of a girl while in a public wave pool, according to the release. The child was under 16 years old, court records show.
The church did not disclose the girl’s age, specify where the incident took place or say whether it took place during a church function.
Heredia adamantly denied the accusation, according to the release.
Upon learning of the arrest Bishop Robert Guglielmone “immediately” placed Heredia on administrative leave, as required by diocesan policy, The State reported in 2018.
During his leave, Heredia was not allowed to act as a priest, wear clerical clothing, be on the campus of either of the two parish churches that he served or take part in any parish activities. Before his arrest, Heredia was administrator of the St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church in Lancaster and the St. Michael Catholic Mission in Great Falls.
Prior to that, Heredia worked at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Columbia from 2014 through the end of 2016, according to the diocese. That’s on Polo Road, near the intersection with U.S. 1/Two Notch Road.