Accused Priests on the Move
By Jennifer Garza
Sacramento Bee (California)
July 28, 2003
For the second time in 14 months, the Rev. Gus Krum has packed his bags, left his church and joined the other priests who pose the next pressing dilemma for the Catholic Church:
Where to send them?
They are the priests accused of sexual abuse. Krum is one. Two weeks ago, he was removed from residence at the St. Francis friary in Sacramento, where he had been living next door to the parish elementary school.
Last year, Krum admitted to his religious superiors that he had been involved in sexual misconduct with teenagers while he was a seminarian in the 1970s. After this admission, he was transferred out of the Portland diocese where he was then serving. He could no longer function as a priest.
Later, he moved to Sacramento. Because Krum was not working as a priest, the Franciscan order did not tell diocesan officials or St. Francis of Assisi parishioners about him.
The priest's past became public, and Krum was on the move again. Franciscan officials will not say where he is.
Krum's situation illustrates the difficulties church officials have placing accused priests. And there are more of them than ever before. U.S. Catholic Church leaders, responding to the sexual abuse crisis that has rocked their church, have removed about 435 priests in the past 18 months, according to church experts and victims advocates.
"The church has never confronted anything like this, especially on such a scale," said the Rev. Robert Silva, president of the National Federation of Priests Council in Chicago. Because each diocese deals with these priests differently, Silva worries that some of them aren't being held accountable.
"It's a concern of a lot of people who are wondering where these priests are going and what they're doing," he said.
Some of these priests are in treatment centers. Others are facing criminal proceedings. But many of them "seem to disappear," Silva said. "They're being removed ... but what are they doing?"
According to a policy adopted last year by the nation's bishops, a priest must be removed from ministry following a credible allegation of sexual abuse.
Citing privacy concerns, bishops and leaders of religious orders will not say where these accused priests are living or what they are doing.
Victims advocates say church leaders have a moral responsibility to say where these priests are - even if they aren't working as priests.
"I don't know of one bishop in the country who is saying, 'Look, we're putting Father A in your parish, and here's what he's done or here's what he's accused of doing,' " said David Clohessy, national director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
Clohessy does not know where the priest who he says sexually abused him lives. In 1991, Clohessy filed a claim against a priest named John Whiteley and the St. Louis diocese. The next year, the priest vanished. "All they told me is that he disappeared," Clohessy said.
After a credible allegation, most of these priests are removed from the parishes where they serve. They are sent to live on their own or on diocesan property and placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of their cases. In many instances, particularly in allegations that are decades old, the outcome is inconclusive, but the priest remains on leave.
Some priests who have not been proven guilty are assigned to ministries where they won't have contact with children. Jobs such as a chaplaincy in a nursing home or prison or working at the local diocesan cemetery are options. Some are given work in chancery offices.
Still, church experts worry that many accused priests are not being kept track of, particularly after last month's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned California's statute of limitation laws.
"Before, there was at least a legal tag on these guys. Now, that's gone," said A.W. Richard Sipe, a former priest and author of "Sex, Priests and Power."
He applauds bishops for removing these priests but believes more could be done. "It's good that they've been removed from ministry, but where are these guys going? You hear all kinds of things."
Sipe, a psychologist, said he has heard that some of these accused priests are now working in other countries. "I've even heard that there are some now working in orphanages in Mexico," he said.
In Sacramento, two priests accused of sexual misconduct - the Rev. Michael Walsh and the Rev. Vincent Brady - currently are not living on diocesan property, according to officials with the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento.
Both are on administrative leave. In compliance with civil law, both are still being paid, said the Rev. David Deibel, vicar episcopal for canonical affairs.
Church officials admit the issue of what to do with accused priests is a challenge.
"It's an ongoing and difficult matter, and almost every diocese across the country is dealing with it," said Lynette Magnino, spokeswoman for the Sacramento diocese.
Handling accused priests also puts church leaders in a moral dilemma - balancing the safety of the parishioners with the teachings of the church on compassion and forgiveness.
At a recent meeting attended by about 150 parishioners at St. Francis, church officials publicly apologized for how the Krum situation was handled and admitted they have made mistakes.
Later, parish administrator Rev. Anthony Garibaldi spoke about the challenge of placing these priests. He said that while guilty priests must be held accountable, "We have a moral obligation to care for them as our brothers."
Garibaldi did not know Krum while he was here, but said the priest was "heavily monitored."
Krum, 49, had to check in and out of the friary where he lived. He was required to let the parish priest know where he was going and when he would return. He reportedly could not talk to anyone under the age of 21.
He spent most of his time at school studying to become a drug and alcohol counselor.
Garibaldi said guilty priests should be punished. But he also said that many of these priests need to find meaningful work. "We can't abandon them," he said.
Victims advocates say that all too often, church officials have put their concern for the accused priests and the image of the church before the victims.
"Isn't that how all this started?" Clohessy asked. "They should always err on the side of child safety."
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