"Last year I received a report that Fr. Townsend had developed an emotionally inappropriate, non-sexual relationship with a 19-year-old male which involved alcohol," Conley said. Upon receiving the report, he said that he immediately withdrew Townsend from ministry and sent him to a treatment center in Houston before allowing him to return to ministry.
"Despite reports to the contrary, I did not oblige anyone to keep silent about this matter," the bishop continued. "Our priests and the parishioners of St. Peter's were told that he went away for health reasons. I made no effort to 'cover-up' any element of this situation, and I tried to address it with integrity."
However, Bishop Conley said that he failed to act with the transparency, something that he "deeply regret[s]."
"I did not encourage an open discussion about this situation with our priests, with parishioners, or with those involved," the bishop said. "Even though we were not legally obligated to report the incident, it would have been the prudent thing to do. Because the young man had reached the age of majority, we did not tell his parents about the incident."
This past week, Conley said, he removed Fr. Townsend from ministry "so that I might consult with our diocesan review board about his situation." He also reported the incident to civil authorities, appointed a new pastor for St. Peter parish, and met with the young man and his parents to ask for forgiveness.
Conley also discussed reports last week about former diocesan vocations director Msgr. Leonard Kalin, who died in 2008. While Kalin was beloved and revered by many in the diocese, allegations have been raised of immorality and misconduct with seminarians.