Bishop Richard Pates has placed Father Howard Fitzgerald on indefinite administrative leave following a determination by the diocesan Allegation Review Committee that an allegation of a decades-old incident of sexual abuse of a minor is credible.
While on administrative leave, Father Fitzgerald cannot function publicly as a priest. Bishop Pates has asked him to refrain from wearing the clerical garb.
The matter is being forwarded to the Vatican.
Bishop Pates has apologized to the victim, who asked for anonymity. The diocese will honor the request.
“It is a top priority that we address all credible allegations of sexual abuse in the manner outlined by the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. In addition, the diocese continues to do all it can to ensure we create a safe environment for children and all vulnerable individuals in our churches and schools,” said Bishop Pates.
After learning of the allegation, the victim was provided the services of the Victim Assistance Advocate of the Diocese of Des Moines. Local law enforcement where the alleged abuse occurred and the Allegation Review Committee were informed.
The matter was studied by the Allegation Review Committee, which has among its members a judge, a licensed clinical social worker, a police detective, an attorney, a priest and a permanent deacon. During the committee’s investigation, Bishop Pates had asked Father Fitzgerald to step aside from his parish responsibilities at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Indianola and Immaculate Conception Parish in St. Marys and at Simpson College.
Bishop Pates will celebrate the Masses this weekend, July 5-6, at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Indianola and Immaculate Conception in St. Marys. Mass times are: Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at St. Thomas Aquinas; Sunday 8 a.m. at Immaculate Conception and 10:15 a.m. at St. Thomas Aquinas.
In 2002, the U.S. bishops created the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which offers a comprehensive set of guidelines on reporting sexual abuse, accountability, reports to a national board and mandatory education programs in parishes and schools.
As of January, 14,416 people in the Diocese of Des Moines had undergone training and background checks designed to help create a safe environment for children and young people. To learn more about the Virtus training, go to www.dmdiocese.org/virtus.cfm.
Quoting a 2010 column which he wrote for “The Catholic Mirror,” Bishop Pates reaffirmed the Church’s commitment to do all it can to protect children in matters of sexual misconduct.
“The bottom line in all of this is that the Catholic Church cares about children – all children – and wants to protect them. Jesus had a special place in his heart for them and the Church can be no less loving. That’s why abuse of children by priests, the overwhelming majority of whom are dedicated, caring people, is a great embarrassment and causes pain for victims, their families and all the church’s members.”
The Diocese of Des Moines encourages victims of sexual abuse by clergy and their families to contact the diocesan Victim Assistance Advocate, Sherry Knox. She is a staff member at Polk County Victim Services. She assists victims through the complaint process and in seeking support and counseling services. She can be reached at 515-286-2028 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Consejero sobre Asistencia de Victimas El Consejero sobre Asistencia de Víctimas es un empleado de Polk County Victim Services. Ella ayuda a víctimas de abuso sexual por parte del clero durante el proceso de la queja y buscando servicios de apoyo y consejería. Pueden comunicarse al 515-286-2028 o en email@example.com.
Father Fitzgerald has served at the following places:
St. Albert High School, Council Bluffs
St. Pius X Church, Urbandale
Pastoral Team serving: St. Mary, Panama; St. Mary, Portsmouth; and
St. Boniface, Westphalia
St. Peter and St. Francis Worship Center, Council Bluffs
Holy Spirit, Creston; and St. Edward, Afton
St. Patrick, Dunlap; and Sacred Heart, Woodbine
St. Michael, Harlan
Ss. John & Paul, Altoona
St. Joseph, Earling; and St. Peter, Defiance
St. Patrick, Dunlap; Holy Family, Mondamin; Sacred Heart, Woodbine
Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, Glenwood
St. Thomas Aquinas, Indianola; and Immaculate Conception, St. Marys