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Archive for Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Group urges removal of priest

December 7, 2005

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— A woman who says a Wichita priest sexually abused her demanded Tuesday that the diocese remove him from his parish.

At a news conference outside the Wichita Catholic Diocese headquarters, Peggy Warren told reporters she believed the Catholic Church should not have put the priest back in the ministry after she accused him of sexually assaulting her twice in 2004.

After he was made a pastor in August at a Kansas parish, members of the activist group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests decided to speak out at news conferences in Wichita and St. Louis. SNAP also delivered a letter to the diocese accusing the church of adding to the family's pain and urging church officials to remove the priest from his ministry.

The group also released redacted copies of an agreement reached in June between Warren and church officials, as well as a copy of a protection from abuse order she obtained against the priest.

"I believed my beloved Catholic Church would do the right thing," Warren said. "But unfortunately it did not and that is what has brought me to this point of speaking out."

The Associated Press has a policy of not identifying alleged victims of sexual abuse, unless they are adults who publicly identify themselves, as in this case. The AP is not naming the accused priest, who has not been charged with any crime.

"This was not a case of clergy sexual abuse; rather, it was a relationship between priest and an adult woman which was both inappropriate and sinful, but nevertheless consensual," said Bishop Michael Jackels.

Jackels told reporters he would welcome an outside investigation of the complaint, and said he believed he acted responsibly in allowing the priest to return to active ministry.

"I would not knowingly allow a priest to continue in ministry if he were to pose a risk to anyone," he said.

The Catholic Church paid Warren $15,750 as an act of "Christian charity" to help her and her family pay for counseling and other costs, Jackels said. Nothing in the settlement agreement acknowledges any liability or responsibility by the diocese.

"The idea was to help them close a door," he said. "It doesn't sound like it was effective."

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