Kentucky priest "on cloud nine" after priestly faculties reinstated

St. Stephen Cathedral in Owensboro, Ky. Credit: Farragutful via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0) St. Stephen Cathedral in Owensboro, Ky. Credit: Farragutful via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

An Owensboro, Kentucky priest says he is “on cloud nine” after receiving word that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had reinstated his faculties after he appealed his permanent suspension from public ministry. 

“When the letter [from the CDF] came, I was telling them I was almost afraid to open it  because you don’t know what the news is,” said Fr. Joseph Edward Bradley to 14 News on April 26. 

“I am so happy I can hardly talk,” he said. He said that it was the prayers and support of his “good friends” who got him through his suspension.

“After two years, it was getting more and more difficult,” said Bradley, as he waited for word on the status of the appeal.  

Bradley was in March 2019 temporarily suspended from public ministry following allegations he had sexually abused a minor in the 1980s. 

Another claim was made during the investigation into the first claim. Both claims are from when Bradley was the dean of students and principal at Owensboro Catholic High School. 

Following an investigation, the Diocesan Review Board substantiated the allegations. Bishop William Medley of Owensboro accepted the review board’s assessment and requested that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith make the suspension permanent. Bradley appealed the CDF’s decision.

Last week, the CDF informed the Diocese of Owensboro that Bradley’s faculties were “immediately reinstated” and that restrictions had been lifted— with one condition. 

“The Vatican decree notes ‘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,’” said an April 26 statement by the diocese. 

Bradley, who is 78 years old, was already retired from active ministry when he was first accused of sexual misconduct. He was working part time as a volunteer chaplain at Owensboro Catholic High School when he was accused in 2019. 

The pandemic stretched out the legal process while Bradley’s appeal was in limbo.

“It’s a universal church,” Bradley said. “It takes a long time for cases to be heard and especially during the pandemic. I just kept telling myself it will happen. I knew I was innocent and I just thought ‘it is going to happen.’”

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. 

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

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. 

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

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