Another day, another dispute with the St. Louis Archdiocese regarding allegations of child sex abuse. The case of Father LeRoy Valentine, however, involves a long and complicated history of accusations that span several decades and allegations of repeated inaction by those in charge. And victims' advocates say the archdiocese today is still trying to downplay Valentine's proven abuse.
"This is disturbing," David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, tells Daily RFT. "Rather than err on the side of being open and transparent, [St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson] chooses to be vague and deceptive."
The support group for clergy abuse victims -- in response to a recent announcement that Valentine has been permanently removed from ecclesiastical ministry -- is alleging that officials with the archdiocese failed to supervise Valentine over the last eleven years and is trying to cover up some of the past cases of sex abuse today.
Archdiocese officials, however, say in a statement that they investigated all accusations and properly responded to allegations they found to be "credible." Valentine, they say, "will continue to live in a monitored, secure environment."
"With sadness I inform you that an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor against one of our priests was found to be substantiated by an independent Advisory Board," Carlson says in a written statement on May 1. "The board, made up of lay persons, found the allegations against Fr. LeRoy Valentine, who served in the archdiocese from 1977-2002 and then retired, to be credible. The incidents took place in the 1970's, but were only recently brought to our attention.... Fr. Valentine is now permanently removed from ecclesiastical ministry, and I have taken steps to inform the parishes where he served."
He adds, "Sexual abuse of a minor is a sin and a crime. Today we pray for the healing of victims of abuse and for the safety of all children everywhere."
(Valentine, officials say, has not been laicized -- commonly referred to as "defrocked" -- but he has been "permanently removed," which means he does not have an assignment at any parish in the archdiocese and will not be given an assignment at any parish again).
Clohessy, however, argues that the statement and the accompanying article of the archdiocese's official paper, the St. Louis Review, brushes aside a much more complex history of sex abuse.
SNAP points to a 2002 New York Times story on Valentine's resignation amid accusations that he had abused three young north county brothers.
The Times reported that the archdiocese had paid these brothers $20,000 each in a "confidential settlement" that required them to stay silent -- but when they learned that Valentine was still working at the parish, they broke the confidentiality agreement and told their story.
At that time, a new accuser had emerged who said he was eight years old when Valentine molested him back in the early 1970s.
SNAP criticizes the archdiocese for neglecting to mention these past settlements, glossing over the former accusations and arguing that some accusations were not credible. And including Valentine's original statements of innocence in the archdiocese account is also cruel, SNAP argues.
"That's just mean. Archdiocesan officials obviously believe he's guilty of abuse," Clohessy says in a statement. "Why else, after multiple lawsuits and settlements, would they make an eleven year temporary suspension permanent unless they were convinced he's a predator?"
He adds, "Repeating Valentine's obviously discredited claim of innocence just rubs salt into the already very deep wounds of his victims."
In response to these additional criticisms from SNAP, Deacon Phil Hengen, director of child and youth protection for the Archdiocese of St. Louis, sends Daily RFT a statement, which says, in part:
The recent allegation, that was found to be credible, took place in 1978. The allegation involved inappropriate touching of a minor and was first made to archdiocesan officials in the Summer of 2012. An investigation began immediately. The Review Board concluded its process with Archbishop Carlson's announcement of Fr. Valentine's permanent removal from public ministry on May 1, 2013.
Continue for more of the archdiocese response and the full statements.
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.