St. Paul and Minneapolis Archdiocese removes another priest accused of abuse

Disciplined cleric is the second in a week that the archdiocese has acted on.

Star Tribune, Minnesota/September 2, 2015

By Jean Hopfensperger

The Rev. Joseph Gallatin, accused of inappropriately touching a teenage boy on a mission trip in 1998, is the second priest in the past week disciplined by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis for alleged child abuse — a pace considered “extraordinary” by some victim advocates.

Gallatin, who most recently served as pastor at the Church of St. Peter in Mendota Heights, is barred from celebrating mass in a church, hearing confessions, wearing a priestly collar or engaging in other ministry activities. His case has been sent to the Vatican for “final resolution.”

“Imposing these precautionary measures reflects the seriousness of the allegation,” wrote interim archbishop Bernard Hebda in a statement, “but should not be viewed as a presumption of guilt.”

The archdiocese also announced the reinstatement of the Rev. Gerald Dvorak to the Church of St. Peter in Richfield. Dvorak was put on a leave of absence in May following an accusation that he sexually abused a minor in the 1970s. An archdiocese investigation determined the claim was not substantiated.

Meanwhile the archdiocese announced last week it was giving a leave of absence to Rev. Robert Fitzpatrick, a pastor at Corpus Christi and St. Rose of Lima parishes in Roseville, following a credible allegation of sexually abusing a minor.

The disciplinary actions against two priests within one week caught advocates for abuse victims by surprise.

It could mark the beginning of a wave of priest removals or leaves, as the archdiocese cranks up its scrutiny of its long secret files on accused priests, said Patrick Wall, an investigator for victim’s attorney Jeff Anderson’s law firm.

Wall, a former monk who served in archdiocese parishes in the 1990s, called the stepped up disciplinary actions “extraordinary,’’ especially given that the archdiocese had released what it called a complete list of child sex offenders following a court order in December 2013.

The last wave of priests disciplined for child sex abuse occurred in 2002 and 2003, when about 20 priests were forced to step down following a national survey commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Bishops, said Wall.

Gallatin was accused of putting his hand under the night shirt of boy in a bunk bed during a mission trip to Appalachia in 1998. He “caressed his stomach and perhaps part of his chest,” and had begun to find it pleasurable, according to a 1998 letter written by then vicar general Kevin McDonough.

The boy wasn’t yet asleep, and reported that it made him uncomfortable, wrote McDonough, noting the boy’s father was angry about the situation.

“He [Gallatin] acknowledged a similar event when he was a college freshmen, involving one of his roommates,” wrote McDonough.

The incident was investigated by three separate clergy review boards, in 1998, 2002 and 2014. They concluded the incident did not constitute sexual abuse of a minor, although it was a “boundary violation.”

Since then, additional information about the incident was obtained, the archdiocese said, and a new ministerial review board determined there was sufficient evidence to support that it was abuse of a minor.

That new review board has 12 members, including five with law degrees, two with medical degrees and “several” with professional or personal experience with victims of violence and abuse, according to a statement by the archdiocese. It did not respond to requests for the names of individuals serving on the board.

Gallatin was a pastor at the Church of St. Peter in Mendota Heights from 2008 to 2014, He also served at St. Boniface parish in St. Bonifacius from 2003 to 2008, as well as parishes in Delano and St. Paul.

Hebda said he was unsure how long it would take for the Vatican to make a decision on Gallatin’s case, “but I have confidence they will proceed with fairness and justice for all parties involved.”

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