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Priest Who Co-Authored Abuse Discipline Guide Charged

May 25, 2003 | AP A Roman Catholic priest who co-authored a guide about disciplining sexually abusive priests now stands accused of molesting a boy more than 30 years ago.

A criminal complaint was filed May 12 against the Rev. Gregory Ingels, who, until recently, served at St. Bartholomew Church in San Mateo. Ingels was charged with engaging in "substantial sexual conduct" with a 15-year-old boy in 1972, two years before he was ordained. Ingels was teaching at a Catholic high school in Marin County at the time, and the boy was his student.

According to the complaint, Ingels made incriminating comments about the incident in recent conversations with the victim, which were tape recorded by police. Ingels could face a maximum sentence of eight years in prison if convicted of the charge.

Ingels, 60, who's also a lawyer, was one of four experts chosen by the Canon Law Society of America to draft a legal interpretation of the child sexual abuse policy adopted last year by the nation's Catholic bishops.

The 47-page guide co-authored by Ingels and published in March offered recommendations on how the bishops' new policy could be implemented.

The bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People originally said priests who had committed "even a single act of sexual abuse of a minor past, present and future," would be expelled from the ministry. The policy later was amended to protect the rights of accused priests and to bring the new policy in line with existing church law.

Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the organization would make no comment on a local matter. The Rev. Arthur Espelege, executive coordinator for the Washington, D.C.-based Canon Law Society of America, was out of the country and could not be reached for comment.

Maurice Healy, spokesman for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, said church leaders first heard of the allegations against Ingels in 1996, but allowed him to continue his ministry after an investigation.

Ingels was asked to stop celebrating Mass in July after the bishops adopted the first version of the charter, according to Healy.

Ingels was charged under a controversial California law that allows certain sex crimes to be prosecuted beyond the normal statute of limitations. The law is now being challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court.

"This case demonstrates how unfair it is when you're forced to address something that allegedly happened so long ago," said Arthur Wachtel, Ingels' attorney. "I don't see how the legal system can address something that happened 30, 40 or 50 years ago."

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