LeRoy Valentine: Decades After First Alleged Child Sex Abuse, St. Louis Priest Removed

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Archbishop Robert Carlson. - VIA
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  • Archbishop Robert Carlson.

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."

VIA FACEBOOK

(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.

Hengen's statement, full version below, offers a fairly detailed timeline of various accusations, noting that the first came in 1995 -- prompting an investigation in which it was determined not to be credible, according to the archdiocese. That's why, he says, Valentine returned to active ministry and a "full disclosure was made to the parish of St. Thomas the Apostle at the time he was assigned there in 1999."

He adds, "Although the initial accusation of misconduct was not found to be credible, Fr. Valentine has been monitored and supervised continuously since 1999."

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In 2002, additional allegations of misconduct dating back to the 1980s were made, Hengen says. "Although they were not substantiated, Father Valentine resigned his position at St. Thomas the Apostle and retired from public ministry. He lived in a private residence from 2002-2005 and then moved to a retirement home in 2005."

It was the recent allegation -- made in 2012 regarding an incident in the 1970s -- that was credible, he says. That's why he's been permanently removed.

Clohessy tells Daily RFT that this official response reflects a larger problem with the church's handling of these child sex abuse cases.

"For eleven years, they've been saying...'We're learning. We're reforming.' And of course, if you've got a massive PR machine and repeat something relentlessly, many people are going to believe it," he says. But bishops aren't ever disciplined, he argues, "no matter how recklessly he handles child sex cases."

Here is Carlson's full statement from last week in full.

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. 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. In keeping with the Charter for the Protection of Children and young People, Fr. Valentine is now permanently removed from ecclesiastical ministry, and I have taken steps to inform the parishes where he served.

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.

Anyone who wishes to make a report of the sexual abuse of a minor by Father Valentine or by any other priest, deacon or employee of the Archdiocese of St. Louis may contact Deacon Phil Hengen, Director of Child and Youth Protection, Archdiocese of St. Louis at 314.792.7704 or phengen@archstl.org. Reports may also be made to the Missouri Division of Social Services Child Abuse Hotline for allegations involving a person who is currently under the age of 18, or to civil authorities for allegations involving a person who is now an adult, but was abused as a minor.

And the full statement from Deacon Phil Hengen, director of child and youth protection with the archdiocese, which was sent to Daily RFT:

Fr. Valentine was first accused of sexual misconduct in 1995. He was then put on administrative leave while the allegation was investigated. Ultimately, it was not found to be credible by an independent Review Board comprised mainly of lay persons. Fr. Valentine was then returned to active ministry and a full disclosure was made to the parish of St. Thomas the Apostle at the time he was assigned there in 1999.

Although the initial accusation of misconduct was not found to be credible, Fr. Valentine has been monitored and supervised continuously since 1999.

In 2002, additional allegations of misconduct dating back to the 1980's were made. Although they were not substantiated, Father Valentine resigned his position at St. Thomas the Apostle and retired from public ministry. He lived in a private residence from 2002-2005 and then moved to a retirement home in 2005.

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.

Fr. Valentine will continue to live in a monitored, secure environment.

And here is SNAP's full news release.

A St. Louis priest has been "permanently removed from active ministry" - but apparently not defrocked - 31 years after the first of at least five child sex abuse accusations against him surfaced. And a local support group for victims is criticizing the archdiocese for not evidently supervising the cleric for the last 11 years and for what it calls "a hurtful and gratuitous announcement" about the defrocking.

Child sex abuse allegations against Fr. Leroy A. Valentine first emerged in 1982, when a North County mother reported that he sexually assaulted her three sons. The St. Louis Archdiocese paid the boys a settlement - believed to be around $20,000 each - and reportedly sent Valentine for treatment and then transferred him. Catholic officials insisted that the boys never speak publicly about the abuse or the settlements.

In 2002, Valentine was an associate pastor at St. Thomas the Apostle in Florissant with an adjoining parochial school. He was one of "at least three St. Louis priests who have been accused in civil court of sexual abuse remain active in the archdiocese today, two in contact with children," according to the New York Times and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

(The other two were Fr. Bruce Forman who was - and still is - the director a youth choir in Soulard and Fr. Thomas Graham who was chaplain at a south St. Louis County nursing home. Graham was convicted in a criminal trial of molesting another boy but the jury's verdict was later overturned. )

Valentine resigned 2002, claiming he would begin focusing all his efforts on proving his innocence.

The first civil child sex abuse and cover up suit against Valentine was filed in 1995.

http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news3/2002_03_28_Kohler_RigaliSays_Leroy_Valentine_3.htm

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/28/us/st-louis-priest-resigns-after-new-accusation.html

"Three archbishops - Justin Rigali, Raymond Burke and Robert Carlson - evidently felt Valentine was too dangerous to work in parishes. But for 11 years, they left Valentine free to live on his own with no supervision or monitoring at all," said David Clohessy, SNAP's executive director.

The archdiocesan announcement of the decision - made in the latest issue of The St. Louis Review, the archdiocesan newspaper - did not disclose that church settlements were paid to at least three of Valentine's victims.

"It's disingenuous for Catholic officials to pay thousands of dollars in settlements to Valentine's victims, but make no mention of that fact when they disclose that, finally, decades later, Valentine has been ousted - allegedly permanently - from active ministry," said Barbara Dorris, the SNAP Outreach Director.

Dorris also disputed the claim by church staff, in the archdiocesan newspaper, that "civil authorities found the allegations were unsubstantiated."

"We challenge Carlson to provide evidence of this," she said. "We strongly suspect that the statute of limitations prevented criminal charges against Valentine."

SNAP also criticized Carlson for letting his newspaper twice mention Valentine's denials.

"That's just mean. Archdiocesan officials obviously believe he's guilty of abuse," said Clohessy. "Why else, after multiple lawsuits and settlements, would they make an 11 year temporary suspension permanent unless they were convinced he's a predator?"

"Repeating Valentine's obviously discredited claim of innocence just rubs salt into the already very deep wounds of his victims," he said.

In a bizarre 2002 interview with the New York Times, Valentine claimed he was barred by the legal settlement from discussing the case.

"When told that this was his opportunity to respond to whether there was any truth to the accusations, he looked down and shook his head. The senior pastor, the Rev. Henry Garavaglia, who sat in on the interview, said, 'Emphatically, I would say no.'"

"Then Father Valentine looked up and said suddenly, 'At the same time, parents should always be concerned who's working with their children.'"

http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news3/2002_03_03_Goodstein_2Path_Bruce_Forman_ETC_2.htm

The Glasgow Village mother whose sons were molested by Valentine told the Associated Press in 2002 that "a police the sergeant in charge of the case asked her to drop the complaint because the scandal would hurt the church."

http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news3/2002_04_30_Caruso_VictimsSystem_Nilo_Martins_3.htm

"We're very proud of this brave family," said Dorris. "These three boys, sexually assaulted at the ages of 10, 11 and 12, immediately told their mom who immediately told the police. Years later, when Catholic officials kept minimizing clergy sex crimes, denying cover ups, and keeping predators on the job, this family spoke publicly, exposed wrongdoing and got Fr. Valentine ousted. We only hope church employees - then and now - would show such compassion and courage."

And you can read the St. Louis Review article here: "Father LeRoy Valentine removed from ministry after abuse allegation."

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin.

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