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Parishioner concerned with turmoil at Vienna church

HUBBARD — A member of the Queen of the Holy Rosary Parish in Vienna said she was doing her job as church procurator in reporting an alleged incident of inappropriate behavior involving a priest and a minor.

Joann Knuth of Hubbard said Thursday that church members have split in the wake of the Rev. Denis Bouchard, church pastor since 2009, being placed on administrative leave after the Diocese of Youngstown received an allegation against Bouchard of inappropriate behavior with a minor.

Knuth said she believes congregation members are blaming her for what turmoil is happening in the church.

The Diocesan Review Board met and recommended to Bishop George Murry further investigation to determine credibility and substantiation. The Rev. John Jerek, vicar for the clergy, said it is the policy of the diocese that Bouchard be placed on administrative leave while a thorough investigation proceeds.

In the interim, the Rev. Carlos Casavantes has been appointed administrator at Queen of the Holy Rosary. Both Bouchard and Casavantes are members of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter.

Jerek said because it is an ongoing investigation, additional comments on the case cannot be made.

Knuth, a longtime parish member, said she was contacted by the mother of the victim, neither of whom she has met. She said the mother left the church years ago.

“I never met either one of them. She called me crying asking me to help her, and I spoke with her on the phone. I do not have firsthand knowledge of the allegations, only what she was telling me,” Knuth said,

Knuth said in her capacity as procurator, she had to get help for the woman and her son and called a friend, who recommending contacting Delphine Baldwin-Casey, the diocese victim assistance coordinator.

Knuth said she and other parish members are concerned about not knowing the status of Bouchard. She said she wishes the process would move faster to ease members’ minds.

“We want to have a parish with a pastor and not an administrator. We want there to be a resolution to this and want to know what has been decided. Our whole church is hurting. The whole situation is very sad,” she said.

“We want our parish to go back to the way it was. My heart is broken. There are people who like him who are supporting him, while others who do not like him are saying he is guilty,” Knuth said.

Baldwin-Casey said because she has received calls from people about the investigation process, she may ask the diocese about scheduling a possible general informational meeting on how cases are handled.

Baldwin-Casey said she understands Knuth and others may want things done right way.

“When you are doing an investigation, it takes time to investigate thoroughly. I like to make sure all my I’s are dotted and my T’s are crossed.

“For many people, they are worried that things are not moving fast enough. Some cases take time. I want them to be done thoroughly,” Baldwin-Casey said. “I have to look at everything. I check all calls and complaints.”

She said when the investigation is completed, she will give the report to the Diocesan Review Board and give a recommendation to the bishop.

“The allegation came to me on Sept. 26. After a review, there were red flags to proceed with an investigation,” Baldwin-Casey said.

She said she has received a few phone calls about other incidents following the release of the names of priests accused of misconduct. These allegations are also being reviewed to see if they are credible. She said if an investigation is conducted and an accusation is deemed credible, the county prosecutor’s office may be contacted about any criminal charges.

She said the minor in this case is now an adult. If the allegation is found to be credible, the victim will be consulted on whether he or she wants to proceed with criminal charges.

Murry, who was out of town Thursday, has said whenever there is an allegation of sexual abuse involving clergy or parish employees, it is investigated and directed to civil authorities, such as Children Services.

“If someone makes an allegation, we will investigate. People need to understand it takes time to do an investigation,” Murry has said.

Knuth said as a procurator, her job is to help people to try to solve problems in relation to the church and its pastor.

“When the allegations of sexual abuse were brought to my attention, I contacted Delphine,” Knuth said.

She said she has been verbally attacked at church because of that.

“When I heard the allegations from the mother, I believed he (the pastor) was breaking canon law and wanted to help her,” Knuth said.

Knuth said she has known Bouchard for about a decade and has nothing against him.

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