Figure in Sex-Abuse Probe Priest Charged with Public Indecency

By Jodi Nirode and Patrick Bell
Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)
July 31, 2003

A Columbus monsignor who is in the process of being removed from the priesthood for having sex with a teen-age boy years ago is in trouble again.

Monsignor Joseph N. Fete, 55, was arrested in Berliner Park by Columbus police vice officers at 2:50 p.m. yesterday and charged with public indecency.

Police say Fete was masturbating in his car near the baseball fields and within 15 feet of passing cars. It was unclear whether youths were playing on the nearby fields at the time.

The report states that vice detectives noticed Fete while investigating complaints of men exposing themselves. Detectives found Fete reclining in the driver's seat, with his shorts unzipped and fully exposed.

Fete was removed as pastor of St. Margaret of Cortona Church on the West Side in April 2002 and remains on inactive status with the Columbus Roman Catholic Diocese, said Tom Berg, the diocese's assistant chancellor.

Fete lost his church after admitting to having sexual contact with a teen-age boy from 1976 to 1979.

The church is still in the process of laicization with Fete, a process to return him to laity status from the priesthood. The process can takes months or years and can be done only by the Vatican, Berg said.

It was unclear last night whether Fete had agreed to the laicization or is resisting the process, said diocese spokeswoman Robin Miller.

"He's not active in any way with the diocese nor has he been since 2002," Miller said.

Fete is expected to be arraigned Friday in Franklin County Municipal Court.

He is one of three priests in Columbus being removed from the priesthood for allegations of having relations with teens.


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