The Albany Diocese on Friday granted a leave of absence for three priests accused in a lawsuit this week of sexual misconduct, bringing to 13 the number of local clerics to leave public ministry in the 17-month old scandal.
Albany Bishop Howard Hubbard said the move came at the request of the Rev. Alan Jupin, pastor at Our Lady of Fatima in Schenectady; and the Rev. Donald Ophals, pastor at St. Francis DeSales in Troy; and the Rev. Louis Douglas, who left St. Catherine of Siena in 1992 and later retired.
The lawsuit named the priests and accused them of sexual misconduct involving a Schenectady teenager in the late 1970s. The suit also alleges there was a plot to discourage the man, now a 43-year-old teacher, from coming forward with a complaint.
Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney has opened an investigation into the allegations that Jupin “date raped” the man when he was a 16-year-old and then began stalking him last year. The priest threatened to kill himself if the man spoke up about the abuse, according to the suit.
Douglas and Ophals were accused of making “improper sexual advances,” which the Schenectady teenager rebuffed. Carney launched his investigation at Hubbard’s request. It could force the man, referred to in court papers only as “John Doe No. 4,” to publicly identify himself in the criminal investigation.
Attorney John Aretakis filed the lawsuit in state Supreme Court in Schenectady seeking $600,000. It is the fourth time he has sued the Albany Diocese in recent months, each time alleging church officials tried to manipulate or intimidate alleged victims from reporting their abuse.
“Yesterday the diocese called my client a liar, and today three priests are removed. My client and I are satisfied that the Capital District is a safe place today as a result of his courage,” Aretakis said.
Hubbard indicated that the leave granted the three priests on Friday was different from the 10 others removed during the past year and barred from active ministry due to allegations of sexually abusing children.
“At this time, the allegations against Father Jupin, Ophals and Douglas have not been substantiated,” Hubbard said. “Any action taken against a priest based on a substantiated complaint of sexual abuse will be announced publicly.
“Fathers Jupin, Ophals and Douglas have strenuously denied the allegations, but each believes the well-being of the church is best served by his taking a temporary leave from the ministry.”
The priests’ leave came a day after a national advocacy group, the Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, singled out Hubbard for his inaction following the lawsuit.
The group urged the bishop to comply with the zero-tolerance rule adopted at a meeting in Dallas last year by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The policy calls for priests to be suspended after an allegation and, if the allegation proves true, to either leave the priesthood or confine themselves to a “life of prayer and penance.”