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What you need to know for 07/25/2017

Diocese removes 1 priest, puts 3 on leave

Diocese removes 1 priest, puts 3 on leave

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany Saturday announced actions taken against four retired priests,

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany Saturday announced actions taken against four retired priests, including one who formerly served in Schenectady, each accused of sexual abuse of children.

Bishop Howard Hubbard has ordered three retired priests — the Revs. Alan Jupin, Donald Ophals and Louis Douglas — be placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation from the Diocesan Review Board. The fourth priest, the Rev. Robert Purcell, was ordered removed from the ministry.

Purcell, 76, is the retired pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Margaretville, Delaware County. Hubbard ordered him removed from the ministry after allegations were made that he was involved in an incident in 1957, 17 years before he was ordained as a priest. Diocese officials said the allegation of sexual abuse was forwarded to the Albany County District Attorney’s Office, which did not pursue a criminal case against Purcell. The Diocese’s Sexual Misconduct Review Board investigated the allegation and concluded there were reasonable grounds to believe the abuse happened. Purcell has denied the allegation.

Jupin, 73, is the retired pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Schenectady and Ophals, 77, is the retired pastor of St. Francis de Sales Parish in Troy. Douglas, 82, retired from St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Albany in 1992.

Church officials said Jupin and Ophals have both remained active in ministry after their retirement but Douglas is under medical care in a nursing facility and is unable to respond to allegations.

Jupin, Ophals and Douglas are all accused of sexually abusing a child in Albany between 1986 and 1991, along with a fourth priest, John Bertolucci. Bertolucci was removed from ministry in 2002 after unrelated sexual abuse allegations. All four men have denied the allegations.

While on administrative leave, Jupin, Ophals and Douglas will not be permitted to act as priests, celebrate Mass or other sacraments publicly or wear the clerical garb.

Church officials said the Albany County District Attorney’s office has informed the Diocese that it will not pursue criminal charges against the men.

Diocesan spokesman Ken Goldfarb said the statute of limitations has run out for the sexual abuse allegations against Purcell, Jupin, Ophals and Douglas, which means they can’t be criminally prosecuted.

“The law that was in effect at the time had a statute of limitations that apparently prevents criminal prosecution at this stage. The law has been changed since then to eliminate the statute of limitations but that doesn’t go back retroactively,” Goldfarb said Saturday.

This is the second time Jupin, Ophals and Douglas have been put on administrative leave. They were on leave in 2003 when the diocese received unrelated sexual abuse allegations.

The Diocesan Review Board investigated the allegations, but ultimately cleared the three priests and they were restored to ministry in 2004.

“We could not find enough substantiation to believe there were reasonable grounds in that matter,” Goldfarb said of the 2003 allegations.

The Albany Diocese urges anyone who as a child was sexually abused by a Catholic priest or deacon to report the matter to a law enforcement agency or to the diocese by contacting the assistance coordinator, Theresa Rodrigues, at 453-6646 or by e-mail at assistance.coordinator@rcda.org.

Diocese officials said it is church policy to forward any complaints about sexual abuse by a priest to the police and the local district attorney.

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