Statement Concerning Father Baccellieri Lawsuit

By Bud Bunce
Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon
February 23, 2004

The Archdiocese of Portland has learned of lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by Father Joseph A. Baccellieri 30 years ago. Since 1992, the Archdiocese has had no reports of misconduct by Father Baccellieri with minors or others. Father has been a faithful and productive priest since his return to ministry in 1994 and subsequent retirement.

About twelve years ago, the Archdiocese first became aware of allegations against Father Baccellieri concerning incidents with teenage males dating back to the 1970's. These men wished their names to remain confidential, but came to us through their attorney. At that time Archbishop William Levada took immediate action by removing Father Baccellieri from ministry. He was placed on leave for counseling and intensive therapy. After two years of therapy and after consultation with his therapists, Father Baccellieri was allowed to return to ministry on a limited basis, with close supervision, in 1994. The conditions of his limited ministry included: * continuous counseling and therapy; * regular reporting by his therapist to the Archdiocese; * close monitoring by the Archdiocese; * imitations on ministry activities; and * residence outside a parish setting or under the vigilance of other priests familiar with his situation.

We believe Father Baccellieri shows that one can deal with serious problems and move beyond the past to become a stronger, better person. Father confronted his problems, dealt with them and served productively an additional eight years in closely supervised ministry.

During the past twelve years, Father Baccellieri's status has been reviewed on an ongoing basis. When Archbishop John G. Vlazny arrived in December 1997, he reviewed all clergy files. Archbishop Vlazny allowed Father Baccellieri to continue in his limited ministry because of consistently positive reports on Father Baccellieri from his therapists and others.

The Archdiocese received no reports of any inappropriate behavior with minors by Father Baccellieri since his return to ministry in 1994.

Despite its positive evaluation of Father Baccellieri, the Archdiocese's involvement in cases relating to child abuse in decades past caused Archbishop Vlazny to reevaluate various policies and practices. In July 2001, Archbishop asked Father Baccellieri to study Canon (Church) Law at Catholic University. In July of 2002, after the United States Catholic Bishops decided upon a policy of "one strike and you're out," Father Baccellieri, who was in ill health at the time, was retired.

As Archbishop Vlazny wrote to his people last week: "I assure you once more of my commitment: to promote healing and reconciliation with victims of child sexual abuse; to effectively respond to allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Archdiocesan personnel; to ensure compliance with the procedures we bishops adopted in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People; and to protect the faithful in the future."


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