ST. LOUIS (AP) - A longtime Roman Catholic priest who served several St. Louis-area parishes has been defrocked over what the Archdiocese of St. Louis called "credible" abuse allegations.
The archdiocese said the Rev. LeRoy Valentine has been permanently removed from ministry for abuse that occurred in 1978 but only came to light last summer.
Phil Hengen, director of child and youth protection for the archdiocese, said in a statement on Thursday that the incident involved "inappropriate touching of a minor." He also said an investigation began immediately once the archdiocese learned of the allegation, culminating with Valentine's loss of priestly privileges on May 1.
The abuse claims were substantiated by an independent review board, Hengen said.
"Sexual abuse of a minor is a sin and a crime," St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson said in the statement. "Today we pray for the healing of victims of abuse and for the safety of all children everywhere."
Valentine, 71, lives in an undisclosed retirement home and has no listed phone number. Valentine was ordained in 1977 and served eight parishes within the archdiocese.
He has been accused before of sexual misconduct with minors, first in a 1995 lawsuit and again in 2002. The archdiocese said it found no credible evidence in either case. Still, Valentine resigned as associate pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle parish in Florissant after the 2002 allegation and has not been involved in active ministry since.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, criticized the archdiocese for allowing Valentine to remain a priest in the years since his resignation.
"Three archbishops - Justin Rigali, Raymond Burke and Robert Carlson - evidently felt Valentine was too dangerous to work in parishes," SNAP executive director David Clohessy said. "But for 11 years, they left Valentine free to live on his own with no supervision or monitoring at all."
But Hengen said Valentine has been "monitored and supervised continuously" since 1999. He said that he lived in a private home from 2002 to 2005, and in a retirement home since 2005.
"Fr. Valentine will continue to live in a monitored, secure environment," Hengen said.
The archdiocese urged anyone with information about other potential cases of abuse to contact the archdiocese, Missouri's child abuse hotline or police.