One priest reinstated to ministry, another removed

| September 2, 2015 | 0 Comments

Archbishop Bernard Hebda, apostolic administrator of St. Paul and Minneapolis, reinstated to ministry Sept. 2 a Richfield pastor accused in May of sexual abuse of a minor, and he removed from ministry another priest whose sexual abuse allegation case is being forwarded to Vatican officials for review.

Father Gerald Dvorak, pastor of St. Peter in Richfield, returned to ministry Sept. 2 following a three-month investigation into a sexual abuse claim made against him. The 12-member archdiocesan Ministerial Review Board concluded that the allegation of abuse in the 1970s was not substantiated. They recommended that Father Dvorak return to ministry.

According to a Sept. 2 statement from Archbishop Hebda, Tim O’ Malley, the archdiocese’s director of the Office of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment, was present for the board’s deliberations and agreed with its decision to reinstate Father Dvorak, who had been on a voluntary leave of absence since May 19. Law enforcement was notified of the results of the archdiocese’s investigation.

“The investigation included interviews with Rev. Dvorak and with the complainant,” said Archbishop Hebda. “The archdiocesan Ministerial Review Board reviewed this entire matter, including results of the investigation and other information relating to Rev. Dvorak’s 37 years of faithful service to this archdiocese.”

The archdiocese’s apostolic administrator since the resignation of Archbishop John Nienstedt in June, Archbishop Hebda added that he supported the board’s conclusion that the allegation was not substantiated, and asked for prayers and support of sexual abuse victims/survivors and their families.

According to the archdiocese, “the definition of ‘credible’ in this context means ‘not manifestly false or frivolous.’ The use of the term was neither a presumption or determination of guilt.”

In a separate statement, Archbishop Hebda said Father Joseph Gallatin had been removed from ministry, and his case “has been referred to Rome for adjudication and final resolution.”

Father Gallatin is barred from celebrating Mass in the presence of lay men and women, hearing confessions, preaching, assisting at weddings or funerals, or other priestly ministry, according to the statement. He is also not permitted to wear a Roman collar or present himself publicly as a priest.

“Imposing these precautionary measures reflects the seriousness of the allegation, but should not be viewed as a presumption of guilt,” Archbishop Hebda said. “[Father] Gallatin has denied that he has sexually abused a minor and is accorded the presumption of innocence during this time.”

The former pastor of St. Peter, Mendota, Father Gallatin resigned from his position at the parish in July 2014 after Archbishop Nienstedt restricted his ministry following a review of his priest file.

Father Gallatin was accused in 1998 of inappropriate physical contact with a minor. Archdiocesan Review Boards reviewed the allegation in 1998, 2002 and 2014. Each board found insufficient evidence to conclude that the priest’s conduct constituted sexual abuse of a minor, but the 2014 board recommended Archbishop Nienstedt limit Father Gallatin’s ministry, which he did.

Following the 2014 review, the archdiocese received additional information about the 1998 incident, prompting it to renew its investigation and subsequently place additional restrictions on Father Gallatin’s ministry.

With this new information, the Ministerial Review Board comprehensively reviewed the allegation in August and “concluded there was sufficient evidence to support the allegation of sexual abuse against a minor,” according to the statement.

At the recommendation of the board, the case will now be adjudicated in Rome under canon law, or Church law.

“I do not know how long it will take for Rome to resolve this matter, but I have confidence that they will proceed with fairness and justice for all parties involved,” Archbishop Hebda said.

The Ministerial Review Board is a confidential advisory body for the archbishop and director of the Office of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment in assessing cases of allegations of sexual abuse of minors against priests or deacons. Formed in May, the board includes two priests and 10 lay members. According to the archdiocese, five have law degrees, two are medical doctors, and three are experts in psychology.

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