Gettelfinger Ripped for Removing Priest

Associated Press, carried in Evansville Courier & Press
July 2, 2002

The bishop of the Evansville Roman Catholic diocese was chastised at a parish meeting for removing a priest who has admitted to sexual misconduct with a 16-year-old boy.

Two months ago, Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger received a standing ovation after he told parishioners at St. Peter Celestine Catholic Church that the Rev. Michael Allen would remain the parish priest despite admitting to abusing the teen-ager in 1976.

Gettelfinger told parishioners on Sunday that he had no choice but to remove Allen because of a zero-tolerance policy passed last month at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Dallas.

"Brothers and sisters, I don't want to be here tonight, not because of you, but because I can't undo what's been done," Gettelfinger said.

Some parishioners at the meeting accused Gettelfinger of betraying Allen by voting in favor of the policy.

Gettelfinger, though, said he voted for the plan because he felt it was necessary to have some kind of new policy -- even one that some view as flawed.

Under the current restrictions, Allen may not present himself publicly as a priest, celebrate mass in public or wear clerical garb.

He also is no longer an employee of the Evansville diocese and must leave his residence on the grounds of St. Peter Celestine by Wednesday.

In Sunday's church bulletin, Allen wrote that he will stay in Celestine and will be a parishioner of St. Peter Celestine.

Allen accepted an offer to live in the home of a parishioner.

"I will be a good neighbor and parishioner and want to be active in the community," Allen wrote.

In the interim, Gettelfinger said he will push for the creation of a forum for priests like Allen to have their cases reviewed.

The bishops might take up that issue at their November meeting, said the bishop, "but I don't want to give you false hope."


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