Sunday, June 30, 2002

Assignment on hold for Columbus priest who molested

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — A new administrative job for a priest removed from a Columbus parish because of past sexual abuse will remain open until the Columbus Roman Catholic Diocese implements new rules adopted by U.S. bishops.

        Monsignor Joseph Fete, 54, was removed as pastor of St. Margaret of Cortona Church after he acknowledged having a sexual relationship with an adolescent boy from 1976 to 1979.

        Diocesan spokesman Tom Berg said Bishop James A. Griffin thinks Monsignor Fete's assignment will be unclear until the rules on sex abuse are in place.

        Monsignor Fete has not reported for duty as director of the newly created Office of Ecumeni cal and Interfaith Affairs, which serves as a liaison to other denominations and faiths.

        Mr. Berg said he does not know Monsignor Fete's whereabouts. His home phone number is not listed.

        The national policy approved June 14 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops bars priests found to have committed sexual abuse from parish work and all public ministry. The policy also allows bishops acting on the advice of an advisory board to decide whether to oust abusive clergy from the priesthood.

        In 1999, the victim threatened to sue the diocese, and Bishop Griffin has said he became aware of Monsignor Fete's actions at that time. The diocese made a financial settlement with the victim, who lives in Dayton, but both sides have refused to disclose the amount.

        The case against Monsignor Fete materialized in early 1999, when the victim, who was 15 when the molestations began, secretly recorded a telephone conversation he had with the priest.

        During that conversation, a transcript of which was obtained by the Columbus Dispatch from Craig Matthews, the Centerville attorney who represented the victim, Monsignor Fete admitted that he had molested the boy and said: “I did betray your trust. And I am very sorry for that.”

        The victim said to Monsignor Fete: “I think you need to turn yourself in. I think you need to think about what you did to me. ...It's been hell trying to forget the pain and horror that's been caused by what you did.”


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