Father Robert F. Johnston, has resigned as pastor of Our Lady of Providence Parish in Grantwood following an allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor that occurred more than 20 years ago.
A statement from the archdiocese noted that Father Johnston admitted to the misconduct and, in accord with archdiocesan policy, immediately submitted his resignation and left the parish. "He will no longer function publicly as a priest," the statement explained.
The allegation was brought to the archdiocese by the victim.
An archdiocesan spokesman stated that the abuse apparently occurred over about a one-year period in the late 1970s when Father Johnston was associate pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Valley Park.
The archdiocese encouraged the victim to report the matter to the authorities.
On March 1, Archbishop Justin Rigali announced a more restrictive standard regarding allegations of abuse. The updated policy states that no priest assigned to a parish or other ministry with children has a substantiated allegation of child abuse. Nine archdiocesan priests, including Father Johnston, have been removed from ministry.
Msgr. Richard Stika, vicar general and chancellor of the archdiocese, addressed the congregation at Masses Dec. 21 and 22 at Our Lady of Providence. Archbishop Rigali celebrated Masses the next weekend at the South County parish and was available afterward to talk to parishioners.
Father Johnston, 66, was at Sacred Heart from September 1977 to May 1978. He was ordained in 1962 and had served in a missionary apostolate in southern Missouri and as an associate pastor at St. Pius X Parish in Glasgow Village, Mary, Queen of the Universe Parish in Lemay, St. Timothy Parish in Affton, St. Richard Parish in Creve Coeur, St. Martin de Porres Parish in Hazelwood and Immacolata Parish in Richmond Heights. He was pastor of St. Joachim Parish in Old Mines 1981-87, St. Catherine of Sienna Parish in Pagedale 1987-90, St. Mary Parish in Bridgeton 1990-96 and Our Lady of Providence since 1996.
Early in his career he served at the Veteran's Hospital in St. Louis, St. Thomas Aquinas High School and with the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.
Archbishop Rigali, in an interview in the Review earlier this year, stated that the Church will not tolerate the abuse of minors and called sexual abuse a crime.