The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has reinstated the faculties of a priest of the Diocese of Owensboro despite two allegations of sexual abuse of a minor that the diocesan review board deemed “substantiated” in 2019.  

Despite his priestly faculties being reinstated, the priest of the Diocese of Owensboro will not be allowed to enter a primary or secondary school for the next five years because of “imprudent behavior,” according to the Vatican. 

Father Joseph Edward Bradley, 78, was already retired, the diocese says, but worked part-time in a voluntary capacity as chaplain at Owensboro Catholic High School when the allegations were made.

Tina Kasey, director of communications for the diocese, told CNA that as a result of the CDF’s decree, the appeal process is concluded and, from the diocese’ standpoint, “the case is closed.” 

In March 2019, Bishop William Medley of Owensboro suspended Fr. Bradley from public ministry after an allegation came to light against Bradley that he had sexually abused a minor in the 1980s.

Fr. Bradley has maintained his innocence. In October 2019, the Daviess County Commonwealth's Attorney declined to file criminal charges against Fr. Bradley, saying that “there was not evidence to support the allegations, and it is passed [sic] the statute of limitations,” according to WFIE TV. 

Following Fr. Bradley’s initial suspension, a second allegation of sexual abuse of a minor came to light, also dating to the 1980s when Bradley was Dean of Students and then Principal of Owensboro Catholic High School. 

In April 2019, the Diocesan Review Board recommended that the allegations be considered “substantiated.” Bishop Medley submitted a report to the Vatican, recommending that Fr. Bradley’s temporary suspension from public ministry “be made permanent.”

Fr. Bradley, along with his canon lawyer, filed an appeal with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. 

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“Last week, Bishop Medley received word from the Vatican immediately reinstating Fr. Bradley’s priestly faculties and lifting the restrictions applied,” an April 26 statement from the diocese reads. 

According to the diocese, the decree notes that “given the imprudent behavior of the cleric throughout the course of his ministry in education, the Congresso (Vatican body) imposes a penal precept (restriction) on the cleric, according to canon 1739, through which he is forbidden to enter any primary or secondary school for a period of five years.”

CNA asked to view the CDF decree in full, but Kasey said Bishop Medley is treating the decree as “privileged and confidential.”

Fr. Bradley is not currently, nor has he ever been, listed on the diocese’ list of clerics with a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse against a minor. 

Kasey told CNA that Fr. Bradley was not listed on the diocesan website due to the appeal that was underway. “We were waiting for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to render its decision,” she said. 

She added that “alleged incidents of more than 30 years past are complicated and difficult to fully substantiate.”