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St. Louis priest faces allegations of sexual abuse

The associate pastor of the Cathedral Basilica in St. Louis, Missouri, has been charged in connection with alleged fondling of a minor in Lincoln County, Missouri.

The priest, 29, was charged with first degree endangering the welfare of a child. Police claim that he committed sexual abuse against the teenage daughter of a family he was staying with.

According to information released by the sheriff's department, the priest sometimes had dinner at the family's home and would stay overnight due to the long drive back to his home in St. Louis. The department alleged that the priest committed sexual abuse against the daughter on three of these occasions earlier this year.

Information provided by the priest's employer -- the Archdiocese of St. Louis -- indicates that the priest was put on administrative leave after his superiors at the archdiocese were made aware of the allegations. The archdiocese clarified that none of the alleged abuse was said to have occurred on the archdiocese's property.

One of the unfortunate effects of the highly-publicized priest abuse scandals of recent years is that many members of the clergy are now automatically viewed with suspicion by members of the public. Many people are all too willing to believe allegations of criminal sexual conduct whenever they are leveled against priests, even before the case goes to trial.

This bias completely overlooks the fact that most of clergy members are fine people who chose their profession in part because of their desire to help others, not take advantage of them. A different picture of events may emerge once more facts about the priest's interactions with the family are known.

Of course, it also must always be remembered that all defendants are innocent until proven guilty in court.

Source: The Lincoln County Journal, "Two men charged with sexual offenses," July 9, 2012

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