US Bishops Returning Accused Priests to Ministry

With sex abuse scandal behind them, some slide back into ministry
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 1, 2010 8:55 AM CDT
US Bishops Returning Accused Priests to Ministry
A bishop arrives at a Catholic church in this file photo.   (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

The Catholic Church’s official policy is that any priest credibly accused of sexual abuse will be removed from ministry, but the definition of “credibly accused” seems like a loose one. US bishops have been quietly reinstating accused priests in the decade since this country's abuse scandal, NPR reports. Rev. Eric Swearingen, for example, was once found to have sexually assaulted a 12-year-old boy in a civil trial. But these days, he’s not only a priest, he oversees a youth ministry.

“I think they feel that the crisis has died down in the public mind,” says Anne Doyle of “They have some confidence that if they go ahead and reinstate these priests that they’ll get very little backlash.” Doyle and others have singled out roughly a dozen active priests who’ve been accused, sued, or arrested for abuse. But given the new scandals in Europe, increased scrutiny and backlash are likely. (Read more sexual abuse stories.)

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