Diocese Suspends Priest; Misconduct Charged

By Lyn Jerde
Telegraph Herald [Dubuque IA]
June 14, 1996

The associate pastor of St. Columbkille Catholic Church has been accused of "inappropriate conduct with minors."

He has been stripped of his authority to act as a priest in the Archdiocese of Dubuque.

The Rev. Timothy DeVenney, 32, who has been at St. Columbkille since his 1993 ordination, has been placed on "administrative leave" effective Monday, said Monsignor David Wheeler, the archdiocese's vicar-general.

The matter has been turned over to the Dubuque police, Wheeler said.

The matter came to the attention of archdiocesan officials last week. One youth complained of the misconduct initially, but Wheeler declined to disclose the youth's age or sex.

"I can't say anything about the number of people who might be involved, because we just don't know," he said.

In accordance with the archdiocese's policy on sexual misconduct - in place since December 1993 - DeVenney was placed on leave immediately after the accusation.

"The fact that he has been removed does not prove guilt or innocence," Wheeler said. "If the allegations are true, this will keep him from doing more damage. If the allegations are false - well, it's hard on the accused, but that's the policy."

Wheeler declined to say where the alleged incidents took place, or whether any of them happened in the church, school or parish hall.

"Inappropriate conduct with minors" can include misconduct of a sexual nature, Wheeler said, but it also can include other kinds of misconduct.

Archbishop Jerome Hanus, OSB, said any inappropriate conduct would be "a serious breach against Christian justice and totally incompatible with the policies and pastoral practice of the archdiocese in its various parishes, schools and other institutions.

"I express my sorrow and concern, and will continue to relate to the situation to assist all the persons involved."

Wheeler would not say where DeVenney is. He is not in police custody.

Copies of the archdiocese's misconduct policy are available at the chancery office, 1229 Mount Loretta St.

Anyone who has information about incidents that may involve DeVenney, or any other priest or church official, may contact Wheeler at 319/556-2580.

Parents and concerned adults are invited to a parish meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Presentation Hall at St. Columbkille.

Wheeler said people who want to learn what to do in similar situations will learn that from this meeting. "This will be a time of caring, compassion and healing," he said.


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