Eunice Priest Out; Bishop Cites Claim That He Abused Boy

By Bruce Schultz
Advocate (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)
April 16, 2002

EUNICE - The bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Lafayette said Monday he had no choice but to remove the Rev. Joseph Alexander as pastor of St. Anthony's Catholic Church after receiving an allegation of sexual contact with a child that occurred almost 40 years ago.

"Father Alexander has acknowledged his involvement in the behavior of which he is accused," Bishop Edward O'Donnell said.

O'Donnell said he removed Alexander as a pastor because, "There's no way to guarantee there won't be a recurrence.He will not be returned to parish work, which is a heck of a price to pay for a mistake 40 years ago," O'Donnell said.

Allegations were made recently that Alexander, while a Benedictine brother in Uniontown, Ky., committed a "sexual impropriety with a minor" in the early 1960s, O'Donnell explained.

Alexander has been placed on administrative leave, O'Donnell said, and it's not clear now what, if any, future role he might have in the Catholic Church.

"His priestly career is certainly over," said O'Donnell, who met with parishioners Sunday afternoon to discuss the dismissal. O'Donnell said no accusations were made against Alexander in Louisiana.

"Father Alexander came to the Diocese of Lafayette in 1984, some 20 years after the described incidents," the bishop said.

"He is a very highly regarded priest, and we think he has done a wonderful job," O'Donnell said.

"Father Alexander has served with distinction in the diocese and in St. Anthony Parish, and we have no reason to believe that any abuse took place during his years of service in the diocese," O'Donnell said.

Monsignor Robert Romero will serve as administrator of the church until a new pastor is appointed, according to O'Donnell. The Rev. Ted Broussard will continue to serve as associate pastor.

O'Donnell would not provide details about the allegation.

"It was serious enough to be concerned, but it was not the worst thing that could have happened," he said. "There was no violence alleged at all."Bishop John McRaith of the Owensboro, Ky., Catholic Diocese would only say the allegation involved a male. The individual made the allegation to the Owensboro Diocese, and the accusation was forwarded to the Diocese of Lafayette, McRaith said. The Benedictine monastery has long been closed, he said.

McRaith said he's not aware if the alleged victim will be filing any formal complaint with law enforcement or in a lawsuit.

"This will be up to the victim," McRaith said.

O'Donnell said he's been advised that a criminal case may not be possible because of the time span.

Detective Greg Warmack of the Union County, Ky., Sheriff's Office said no allegations were forwarded to his office.

"We are not looking into anything like that," he said. O'Donnell said this was the first accusation that had surfaced in the current scandal involving sexual impropriety allegations against priests. He said that, after the case of the Rev. Gilbert Gauthe, parishioners throughout the diocese were asked to speak up about any accusation of sexual impropriety against priests, but Alexander's name was never raised.

Former Bishop Gerard Frey was in charge of the Lafayette diocese when the Gauthe case surfaced.

Gauthe's case was the first major pedophilia scandal to rock the Catholic Church. He went to prison in the 1980s for molesting altar boys, and he cost the diocese more than $20 million to settle lawsuits filed by victims. He served half of a 20-year prison term, and after his release he was accused of molesting a Texas child. He eventually pleaded guilty to injury of a child.

Also after his release, a charge of rape was filed in Vermilion Parish against Gauthe involving a girl who was 12 in 1982. The charge was thrown out because his original plea agreement prevented authorities from bringing additional cases against him from the time he was a priest in Vermilion Parish.

The wave of accusations against priests comes in the wake of the case involving John Geoghan, a former Boston priest, convicted this year of sexual misconduct with an 11-year-old boy.

Geoghan faces two more criminal trials involving the molestation of children.

The Diocese of Boston faces dozens of lawsuits stemming from allegations that Geoghan molested children from the 1960s through the early 1990s. The diocese reportedly has paid more than $10 million to settle other lawsuits against Geoghan.

Allegations have surfaced that Geoghan was transferred to parishes within the Boston diocese even though church administrators were aware of allegations that he had molested children.

Evidence came to light in the Gauthe civil cases that local diocesan officials also moved him to other churches after complaints were made as far back as the early 1970s.


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