A Santa Rosa priest who is accused of molesting a boy in 1981 could ask a newly established church tribunal to absolve him.
The Rev. Anthony Ross was suspended in April after the accusations. If he does not ask the special church tribunal for absolution, he will automatically be removed from the ministry.
If the tribunal set up by U.S. bishops and approved by the Vatican last week finds him guilty, Ross could be removed from active ministry or from the priesthood altogether.
A man who’s now 36 years old accused Ross of molesting him at least twice in Illinois.
Ross, who came to Santa Rosa in 1993, has not been charged with a crime. He has acknowledged receiving treatment for sexual disorders in the 1980s.
The tribunal is charged with determining whether a priest who is the subject of a credible child sex abuse allegation is fit to continue his service.
Tribunals would be made up of experts in church law. If they find a priest guilty, their decisions cannot be overturned by bishops.
Ross has declined to divulge his plans. He headed the jail ministry for the Diocese of Santa Rosa.
Deirdre Frontczak, a spokeswoman for Santa Rosa Bishop Daniel Walsh, said that the bishop voted for the policy and is “emphatically” opposed to letting a priest facing a credible allegation of sexual abuse serve in the diocese.