Vatican congregation exonerates Long Island monsignor of sex abuse charges

.- A New York Catholic priest close to former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani will return to ministry after being found not guilty of sexual abuse of a minor in a canonical trial before the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).

Msgr. Alan Placa, a Long Island priest accused of molesting a teenager in 1975, was the Diocese of Rockville Center’s leader on sexual abuse issues until June of 2002, when he himself was accused.

The monsignor was stripped of his priestly faculties while church authorities investigated.

The Diocese of Rockville Centre said in a statement that his case has been subjected to “extraordinary scrutiny” in conformity with the requirements of the norms established by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Dallas in 2002.

It added that the Congregation’s decision confirms the decision first reached by the Tribunal of the Diocese of Albany.

“The Holy See’s definitive decision completes the canonical process for Msgr. Placa,” the diocese said. “This action by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith renders the decision final and definitive. As a result of this decision, Msgr. Placa is no longer on administrative leave and is now permitted to exercise priestly ministry freely in the Roman Catholic Church.”

“In accordance with the provisions of the Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law, we have been instructed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to restore Msgr. Placa to ministry and to do what we can to restore his good name.”

Bishop of Rockville Centre William Murphy thanked the CDF and the Tribunal of the Diocese of Albany for their work. He said the diocese will abide by the Congregation’s decision to return Msgr. Placa to ministry.

“We hope that everyone in the diocese will recognize that Msgr. Placa is a priest in good standing.  It is my hope and prayer that this decision will bring closure and healing,” Bishop Murphy said. “We also ask people of good will to join us in praying for those who were, in fact, victims of sexual abuse. Their suffering must never be forgotten.”

Msgr. Placa was best man at the first wedding of Rudy Giuliani and presided over the politician’s second wedding. He also officiated at the funeral of the ex-mayor’s mother, the New York Daily News says.

Giuliani stood by Msgr. Placa while he was being investigated and put him on the payroll of his law firm. A spokeswoman for the ex-mayor told the New York Daily News he had no comment.

Msgr. Placa’s accuser, Ronald Tollner, said he is “standing by all of my testimony. I’m not retracting anything. He molested kids.”

According to the Diocese of Rockville Centre, Bishop Murphy and Msgr. Placa have agreed that he will not be given a diocesan assignment. He will reside at St. Aloysius parish in Great Neck, Long Island with the status of a retired priest in good standing.

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