By Ken Stone
A San Diego priest has been suspended after the local Roman Catholic diocese revisited sex-abuse claims against him from the 1990s.
The Rev. Justin Langille, 65, had been assisting on weekends at St. Therese Parish in San Carlos and Ascension Catholic Church in Tierrasanta. He had his faculties revoked by Bishop Robert McElroy following a determination by the Diocesan Independent Review Board, the diocese announced Tuesday.
“Father Langille had been credibly accused of sexual misconduct with a female teen in an incident dating from the early-1990s,” diocesan spokeswoman Aida Bustos said in a statement.
“The diocese reported this incident to the police,” she told Times of San Diego. Later, diocese Vice Chancellor Kevin C. Eckery said: “The law enforcement agency was [San Diego] County Child Welfare Services. In terms of where the incident took place, we’re not saying right now because we don’t want to violate the victim’s privacy.”The case was closed years ago after Langille passed a lie detector test but was reopened as part of an ongoing review of files, Bustos said.
The case was brought before the review board as part of the process of reviewing files pertaining to the sexual abuse of minors by clergy in the Diocese of San Diego, she said in a month where McElroy was conducting a “listening tour” of eight churches.
Last week, McElroy said the “history of abuse is in the past” with no credible accusations against living priests since 2002.
But two months ago, McElroy asked the review board to review allegations against current priests that had been evaluated before the diocese formed the board in 2004, Bustos said.
McElroy said: “I felt strongly that even older, previously decided cases involving currently serving priests would benefit from being examined by the Independent Review Board.
“The voice of the laity needs to be heard on these matters and the independent board, with members that include attorneys, criminal investigators, psychologists and a clergy abuse victim, provides the diocese with exceptionally valuable guidance and expertise.”
Bustos said that if the Independent Review Board reviews an allegation and determines that the accusation is not credible, the priest may be returned to ministry.
However, if the board advises the bishop that the accusation is credible, and the bishop accepts those findings, then under the zero-tolerance policies followed by the diocese, the priest will be suspended, his faculties will be removed, and he will no longer be allowed to publicly function as a priest in San Diego or any other Catholic diocese around the world, she said.
The case involving Langille was one of those cases. (St. Therese has been a parish assignment for at least six other priests on the credibly accused list.)
The original allegation against Langille came to the diocese in the mid-1990s for an alleged act of sexual abuse against a female teen that had taken place in the early 1990s.
The case was examined in 1995 and again in 2002, but the diocese concluded at the time that the allegation could not be substantiated, Bustos said.
In 2002, Langille was given and passed a polygraph test, which was a major determining factor at the time, she said.
When the review board took up this case last month, it commissioned a new search for corroborating evidence by a professional investigator.
“Significant new information emerged that substantially undermined the credibility of Langille in his denials, Bustos said.
McElroy said the Independent Review Board concluded overwhelmingly that Langille had violated the standards of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in his actions, “and for this reason I removed Langille from public ministry.”
Langille has not had a full-time assignment in the diocese since 2013, but he has assisted on weekends at St. Therese and Ascension parishes.
An announcement about Langille will be made in both parishes this weekend, Bustos said.
In addition, Langille’s name will be added to the list of credibly accused priests maintained by the diocese.
The diocese urges any victim of abuse by clergy to contact the Victim Assistance Office at 858-490-8353 to report such abuse and for support in healing.
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