Archdiocese ousts priest accused of sex abuse

Houston Chronicle/January 14, 2008

A priest who has served the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston for almost 35 years has been removed from the ministry after "credible evidence" emerged that he sexually abused a young male while he was pastor at Christ the King Catholic Church.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo said Sunday that the Rev. Stephen Horn was removed in November from his current position as pastor of St. Luke the Evangelist Church in south Houston shortly after the victim, now an adult, reported the abuse.

"This is a day of sadness for us," DiNardo said at a news conference Sunday.

Horn is accused of sexually abusing a minor between 1989 and 1993.

DiNardo declined to say where the 63-year-old Horn is now, other than to say he is receiving treatment and being monitored. He said the archdiocese will now await a decision from the Vatican before taking further action against Horn.

Horn served at Christ the King, located on the near North Side, from 1981 to 1994; he has been pastor of St. Luke the Evangelist since 1994.

DiNardo declined to give details of the sexual abuse, but said an Archdiocesan Review Board panel investigated the allegations and "thought there was credible evidence for the abuse allegations."

A letter from DiNardo, who became a cardinal in November, was read to parishioners at Christ the King and St. Luke during Masses Saturday evening and Sunday.

"An allegation is not a determination of guilt, and we each have a right to our good reputation," the letter said.

"However, the Archdiocese takes allegations of sexual abuse of minors extremely seriously. Accordingly, it is my conclusion that Father Horn should be removed from active ministry at this time."

The letter urged parishioners with any relevant information about Horn to contact the archdiocese's attorney or police.

"This is a difficult time for everyone involved, which, because a priest is the alleged wrongdoer, includes all of the Clergy and Catholic Faithful of the Archdiocese," DiNardo wrote in his letter.

The U.S. Catholic church was rocked by scandal after allegations of long-standing sexual abuse by priests against minors first erupted in Boston in 2002. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops responded with a Charter for the Protection of Children and Youth, and ordered a nationwide study to determine how widespread the problem was.

The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston reported in January 2004 that 22 priests and four deacons sexually abused 46 minors in the archdiocese during the previous 53 years. Eighty percent of the abuse occurred before 1980 but was reported in the 10 years before the study. The confirmed sex abuse allegations cost the archdiocese $3.6 million in settlements, counseling and legal fees.

The priests and deacons involved died, resigned or were removed, it was reported at the time.

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