Father Robert Fitzpatrick has been reinstated to public ministry after an abuse claim made against him was found unsubstantiated, Archbishop Bernard Hebda announced March 17.
In August, Father Fitzpatrick, pastor of Corpus Christi and St. Rose of Lima in Roseville, was accused of sexually abusing a minor in the 1980s. He denied the claim. The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis contacted law enforcement, and Father Fitzpatrick took a voluntary leave of absence.
According to the archdiocese, law enforcement investigated the claim and closed the case, “based on a lack of evidence and the statue of limitations.” With law enforcement’s authorization, the archdiocese launched its own investigation, and its findings were presented to the Ministerial Review Board. After review, the board recommended to Tim O’Malley, director of the Office of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment, that Father Fitzpatrick return to ministry.
“The [Ministerial Review Board] reviewed this entire matter, including investigative materials and other information relating to [Father] Fitzpatrick’s 42 years of service to this archdiocese,” said Archbishop Hebda, the archdiocese’s apostolic administrator, in the statement. “The [board], which is made up mostly of lay persons, determined that there was not a reasonable basis to find that the alleged abuse occurred. The MRB, therefore, concluded that the allegation is not substantiated and recommend that [Father] Fitzpatrick should be returned to ministry.”
O’Malley concurred with the board and passed the recommendation to Archbishop Hebda, who also supported the board’s conclusions, he said, and ordered the priest’s return to ministry. Archdiocesan officials are working with Father Fitzpatrick “to determine the best way to reintegrate him into ministry,” the statement said.
“I ask for your prayers and support for all victims of sexual abuse and their families, as well as for Father Fitzpatrick and all of our priests,” Archbishop Hebda said.
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