Everyone in Washington, D.C., has heard numerous stories about priests, pastors and other religious figures that allegedly prey on their congregants. Accusations of sexual assault by a priest are so common that many people will assume that all allegations of sexual assault are true. Unfortunately, some cases arise after a false report is made, but even when a priest is able to prove his innocence, it doesn't mean his career hasn't already been ruined by the mere accusation of sexual abuse.
In a recent case, a priest will no longer have to worry about the criminal charge filed against him earlier this year after prosecutors dropped a sexual assault charge. In August, a 15-year-old girl accused the priest of grabbing her breast outside of a hotel while he was attending a conference for experts in canon law and civil attorneys. The teenager reported the alleged behavior to police, but the priest denied touching the girl.
After prosecutors filed charges of fourth-degree sexual assault and disorderly conduct against the priest, police started their investigation. The county district attorney who was working on the case soon chose to drop the charges after police and investigators delved deeper into their inquiry.
Although the priest is no longer facing criminal charges, he was forced to resign from his job at the Sacred Heart School of Theology and as a provincial secretary. The priest was not assigned to a parish, but was rather an assistant professor of canon law and the director of the English as a Second Language program. A spokesperson for Sacred Heart said they will be investigating the matter further before deciding whether the priest will return, but his attorney has said that "members of the community often rush to judgment in cases such as these. Sometimes that judgment is made in error."
Sadly, stories such as this have been repeated throughout Maryland and around the country. Religious figures who are accused of sexual assault or abuse have been forced to resign or fired from their jobs after an allegation of impropriety, sometimes long before he or she even makes it to a courtroom.
Source: La Crosse Tribune, "Charges dismissed in priest's sexual assault case," Anne Jungen, Dec. 22, 2011