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Archbishop To Move Belmont Priest Accused of Sex Crime

Apr 9, 2003 | San Mateo County Times Though the Archbishop of San Francisco plans to move Father Daniel Carter to another parish, the priest does not want to leave the Immaculate Heart of Mary church in Belmont.

Father Carter has been accused of sexually molesting a child more than 25 years ago when he was a brother at the Notre Dame des Victoires Parochial School in San Francisco. The priest returned to the pulpit last Sunday after eight months on administrative leave.

"He does not want to be changed, and he's not going to accept that change," said John Belou, a member of the church.

Some parishioners say Father Carter, who has been at the Belmont church since 2000, has asked them to support him in resisting the reassigment and many stand behind him.

"Most parishioners, including me, don't want to see him go," said 80-year-old Ed Morrie, who has been attending the church for 40 years.

In a March 25 letter to the priest, Archbishop William J. Levada said an independent panel had reviewed the accusations -- levelled last August in a civil suit by a woman now in her 30s -- and called them "unfounded."

The panel was appointed by church officials, and the identities of its members have not been made public.

Levada went on to say that Father Carter's work at Immaculate Heart of Mary would end July 1, and he will be placed elsewhere.

"This new assignment is unrelated to the recent allegations of sexual abuse of a minor," Levada wrote.

Calls to the San Francisco Archdiocese for comment were not returned Wednesday.

While the church's official review board discounted the woman's claims, a group of concerned churchgoers found her "totally credible," according to Gordon Seeley, a member of Voices of the Faithful. The group is a national organization of lay Catholics aimed at bringing reforms to the church.

Seeley, a San Francisco State University professor who has attended IHM since 1968, said about 12 members of Voices of the Faithful including himself interviewed the woman twice, and two psychologists were present. They found her story believable, Seeley said.

The lawsuit was filed in August, withdrawn in January and refiled last month in San Francisco County Superior Court. Father Carter has told the parish he has yet to be served with it.

Rick Simons, a Hayward attorney representing the woman, said the suit was withdrawn and refiled to take advantage of a one-year lifting of the statute of limitations on old sex-abuse cases that American bishops approved last June.

The woman has chosen not to identify herself in the complaint, Simons said, because the law allows anonymity for plaintiffs in potentially embarassing proceedings. Her name was submitted to the court separately, and was not made available to The Times.

According to court documents, the woman complained to church officials four months before filing her suit, but got no response.

Father Carter was put on leave two days after it was filed, though the church denied it was related to the lawsuit, Simons said.

Under the Dallas Charter an agreement put together by bishops last summer when it was revealed that the Boston Archdiocese had repeatedly transferred priests accused of sexual misconduct, rather than removing them the church must notify police of any such accusations against the clergy.

It is unknown whether that happened in this case. A spokesman for the San Francisco District Attorney's Office, Mark McNamara, said he could not confirm or deny that there had been an investigation.

When Father Carter returned on Sunday, he was greeted by protesters some who said they were survivors of sexual abuse at the hands of priests and many supporters.

Members of both camps called The Times on Wednesday.

"He needs to be removed from ministry," said Terrie Light, a member of Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests.

"He wasn't even a priest at the time (of the alleged acts)," said Doris Stark, a longtime parishioner. "This woman is just trying to make money. He's a great priest, and he's friendly to everyone. If he's transferred, I hope it's nearby."

Other callers said Father Carter, who has worked at Our Lady of the Pillar Church in Half Moon Bay and several San Francisco churches, was absolved of all previous acts when he took the vow to become a priest.

"He's like a clean slate," said Morrie.

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