A Catholic priest in Douglas has been suspended for allegedly violating the church’s sexual misconduct policy.
The priest was suspended by Bishop Manuel Moreno of the Diocese of Tucson. Douglas police are investigating, but no charges have been filed.
In an Oct. 11 letter to Douglas parishioners, Moreno said he suspended the priest because he wanted to “do the right things” about sexual misconduct claims within the diocese.
“We have learned that it is always the right thing to do to encourage anyone who may have experienced harm from a worker for the Church to make that harm known so that healing can begin,” Moreno wrote.
Because the priest faces no criminal charges, the Tucson Citizen is not identifying him.
In January, the diocese settled 11 lawsuits that claimed children were abused by four priests in the 1960s, 1970s and ’80s. The suits were settled for an undisclosed sum.
Six lawsuits have since been filed against the diocese, alleging abuse by priests and a teacher in Yuma.
Douglas police Detective Mark Wilkinson is in charge of the criminal investigation
Douglas police Detective Mark Wilkinson is in charge of the criminal investigation in the matter there and would not comment on it. He said the Cochise County Attorney’s Office will decide whether to file charges.
Police learned of the allegations against the priest Oct. 1 and three days later informed the diocese, Wilkinson said.
Although the diocese and police are not discussing specifics, diocese spokesman Fred Allison said, if proven, the accusations would at least fall under the diocese’s broad new definition of sexual misconduct.
The Douglas priest is the 19th in the diocese to face allegations of sexual misconduct and the second in the last two months.
Recent suspensions of priests were imposed based on the recommendation of Dr. Jose Santiago, a Tucson psychiatrist and chairman of a committee the diocese commissioned in July to investigate claims of sexual misconduct and child abuse.
While Santiago has the authority to make preliminary recommendations to the bishop, the committee will begin its internal investigation after the Douglas police investigation is completed, Allison said.
The priest could be defrocked if the allegations are founded, regardless of whether he is convicted of a crime, according to the new guidelines.
“There’s always concern that the reputation of an innocent person can be harmed,” Allison said.
“The primary concern of the guidelines is protection for children, and there may be a high price to pay to protect children,” he added.
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