St. Paul, Minn., Sep 4, 2015 / 19:11 pm America/Denver (CNA).
The Archdiocese of Minneapolis-St. Paul has removed two priests from ministry pending investigation of sex abuse allegations, while it has reinstated a separate priest on the grounds that an allegation against him was not substantiated.
The archdiocese’s investigation of Father Gerald Dvorak found the allegation that he sexually abused a minor in the 1970s to be unsubstantiated.
Law enforcement was notified of the allegation and authorized the archdiocese to conduct an investigation. Father Dvorak took a voluntary leave of absence pending the investigation’s outcome, and has now been reinstated as pastor of the Church of St. Peter in Richfield, Minn. Father Dvorak has been a priest for 37 years.
Archbishop Bernard Hebda, who is currently the archdiocese’s administrator, said the allegations against the priest were treated as credible, meaning “not manifestly false or frivolous” and were not a presumption of guilt.
Another priest of the archdiocese, Father Joseph Gallatin, was removed from ministry for alleged sex abuse of a minor in 1998. The allegation was previously considered by archdiocesan review boards in 1998, 2002 and 2014 but concluded there was not sufficient evidence. The archdiocese said Sept. 2 that additional information about the incident had been obtained from people involved.
The results of a new investigation were presented to the newly formed Ministerial Review Board, which said there is “sufficient evidence to support an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor,” the archbishop said.
The board recommended the case be referred to Rome for final adjudication according to canon law, and other archdiocesan officials agreed.
“I do not know how long it will take for Rome to resolve this matter, but I have confidence that they will proceed with fairness and justice for all parties involved,” Archbishop Hebda, said Sept. 2.
Father Gallatin is barred from celebrating Mass in the presence of laity, from hearing confessions, preaching, assisting at weddings or funerals or otherwise engaging in any priestly ministry. He is not allowed to wear a priest’s collar or to present himself as a priest publicly.
“Imposing these precautionary measures reflects the seriousness of the allegation, but should not be viewed as a presumption of guilt,” Archbishop Hebda said. “Rev. Gallatin has denied that he has sexually abused a minor and is accorded the presumption of innocence during this time.”
Another priest faces an allegation that he sexually abused a minor in the 1980s, the archbishop said Aug. 29. He announced an allegation against Father Robert Fitzpatrick.
The priest will not exercise priestly ministry and will be on a leave of absence from his roles as pastor at Corpus Christi parish and St. Rose of Lima parish and school in Roseville, Minn.
Archbishop Hebda, who is co-adjutor of the Newark, N.J. archdiocese, said the allegation has been reported to law enforcement.
In June, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Archbishop John Nienstedt and Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piche two weeks after the archdiocese was charged with mishandling sex abuse cases.
Prosecutors charged the archdiocese with six counts of failing to protect minors concerning the actions of the now-former priest Curtis Wehmeyer. Wehmeyer is now serving a five year prison sentence for sexually abusing two minors and possession of child pornography.
Archbishop Nienstedt said he resigned with “a clear conscience” and voiced support for his staff and the archdiocese’s child protection protocols. Bishop Piche said he resigned willingly and thought he was “getting in the way” of healing.