Area Priest in Sex Case Is Laicized by Pope
St. Louis Archdiocese Had Removed Joseph D. Ross from St. Cronan Church

By Norm Parish
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
August 8, 2002

One of the first of seven St. Louis-area priests removed this year from their church duties for sexual misconduct has been removed from the priesthood by Pope John Paul II, St. Louis Archdiocese officials said Wednesday.

Joseph D. Ross, a former priest at St. Cronan Catholic Church in St. Louis who once pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting an 11-year-old boy during confession, was removed by the pope at the request of the St. Louis Archdiocese, said Jim Orso, a spokesman for the archdiocese. Orso said the archdiocese received the news within the last 10 days.

Archdiocesan officials declined to say whether they have asked the pope to remove other priests.

The U.S. Conference of Bishops and the archdiocese said they were unsure if Ross is the first priest to be removed from the priesthood, or laicized, since the nationwide sex scandal involving children and priests mushroomed in the spring.

Archbishop Justin Rigali petitioned the pope in May to start laicization proceedings against Ross, at least two months before the U.S. Conference of Bishops' new tougher policy on ousting priests for sexual misconduct. Under laicization, a priest is returned to the status of layman and the diocese no longer financially supports him.

Ross, who has served as a priest in several churches, was assigned to St. Cronan in 1991 - three years after he pleaded guilty in the sexual abuse incident. The archdiocese never informed parishioners of Ross' conviction.

"Mr. Ross' reassignments in the past would not have occurred under current clinical standards and Archdiocesan policies," Orso said in a statement. "We regret that he had previously been reassigned to active ministry. We deeply apologize to victims and their families for the pain and suffering that have resulted from Mr. Ross' wrongdoing."

Since Ross' removal earlier this year from St. Cronan, diocesan officials said other allegations of sexual abuse against him have arisen.

Ross could not be reached for comment.

David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said he was pleased by Ross' removal.

"I hope that the church understands that their obligation to keep kids safe doesn't end with Joseph Ross," Clohessy said. "The church still has an obligation to warn parents about this man and protect kids from him."

In 1988, Ross pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor sexual abuse of a boy at Christ the King Church in University City.

Ross, 58, had been accused of grabbing and kissing the youngster several times during confession. The boy also reported that while he was attempting to confess his sins a month later, Ross grabbed his arm and attempted to pull him onto his lap.

Ross had at least two prior arrests and another accusation of sexual misconduct, according to police reports.

Immediately after his ordination to the priesthood in 1969, he was named to Immacolata Church in Richmond Heights.


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