Two associate pastors have left their parish assignments following allegations of sexual misconduct with minors while serving as priests of the archdiocese.
The priests are Father LeRoy A. Valentine, associate pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Florissant, and Father Gary P. Wolken, associate pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in South St. Louis.
Archbishop Justin Rigali reiterated the unequivocal commitment of the archdiocese that "the safety of our children and young people is and must be our highest priority." He promised to pray for Fathers Valentine and Wolken and all those who are affected.
Father Valentine had been the subject of recent media reports of a lawsuit filed against the archdiocese in 1995 alleging sexual misconduct of a minor while he was associate pastor of St. Pius X Parish in Glasgow Village in 1982. Father Valentine has repeatedly stated that the allegation was untrue.
In a March 25 letter to parishioners at St. Thomas, Father Valentine said that "I have learned that during the last week there has been a new charge from many years ago."
Father Valentine submitted his resignation to Archbishop Justin Rigali on March 23. "I continue to maintain my innocence, but at this time I have come to the decision that it is in the best interest of our parish family, of the archdiocese and for my own personal well-being that I end my service at St. Thomas."
Father Wolken wrote parishioners at Our Lady of Sorrows on March 25 also, and he noted the allegation is not related to his work at the parish. "An allegation has been made against me of inappropriate behavior with a minor. ... I respect the policy of the archdiocese and thus must leave the parish while the charge is reviewed."
Father Wolken stated that he is cooperating with the Missouri Division of Family Services in their assessment of the matter. His leaving the parish is in accord with the Archdiocesan Policy for Sexual Abuse of Minors by Clergy.
Archbishop Rigali announced March 1 that the pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows, Father Michael Campbell, and Father Joseph Ross, pastor of St. Cronan Parish in South St. Louis, had resigned due to substantiated allegations of abuse that occurred more than a dozen years ago.
At the same time, Archbishop Rigali announced a more restrictive standard that means no priest assigned to a parish or other ministry with children has a substantiated allegation of child abuse.
In 1996 the archdiocese issued an updated pastoral policy and procedures for cases in which an archdiocesan priest or deacon is accused of the sexual abuse of a minor. The policy established a coordinator of victim assistance and an advisory committee of clergy, health care professionals and laypeople to consult with the Archbishop. When the committee finds that a complaint is both credible and serious the clergyman is asked to leave his present assignment immediately.
In his statement March 1, Archbishop Rigali noted that the policy emphasizes that victims of such abuse are the primary concern of the archdiocese and that appropriate assistance should be available to them.
"As in the past, I encourage those who believe they are victims of abuse by anyone to come to the Church or to civil authorities so that appropriate assistance can be offered," Archbishop Rigali wrote.
The 1996 archdiocesan policy was built on a commitment to victims of abuse first formulated in 1983 and a 1990 policy covering employees, volunteers, religious and clergy and addressing the needs of victims of child abuse.
The policy states that the archdiocese is committed to the prevention of all child abuse. The sexual abuse of a minor by a priest or a deacon "is of special concern because it is a serious violation of the mission of the Church and of the clergyman's commitment," the policy explains.
Father Wolken, 36, was ordained in 1993. He served for four years as associate pastor of Ascension Parish in Chesterfield and two years at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in University City before being named associate pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows in 1999.
Father Valentine, 60, was ordained in 1977. His first assignment was as associate pastor of Immacolata Parish in Richmond Heights. In the 1980s and early '90s he served as associate pastor of Mary, Queen of Peace Parish in Webster Grows, St. Pius X, St. Gabriel in South St. Louis, Immaculate Heart of Mary in South St. Louis and St. Joseph in Farmington. He was named pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Elsberry in 1994. A year later he took an administrative leave and underwent evaluation following the filing of the lawsuit alleging abuse. He was named associate pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle in October of 1999. At the time, parishioners were informed of the allegation against him.
The archdiocese reached a settlement with the alleged victim in the 1995 lawsuit involving Father Valentine. He was not removed from his parish because it was determined the allegation was not substantiated.