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CARVER — An Archdiocese review board concluded a former Carver priest is “not fit” to return to ministry.

The Rev. Thomas Joseph, formerly a priest at St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Carver, has maintained his innocence since the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis removed him from the parish in January 2018, after an allegation of sexual misconduct with an adult.

The case will proceed through canonical penal process for final determination, according to an archdiocese release, issued in March.

In May 2018 the Carver County Attorney’s Office declined to file criminal charges, as the case did not meet the office’s legal charging standard, which requires probable cause that a crime was committed and a reasonable likelihood of conviction if it goes to trial, according to officials.

In early March 2019, the Ministerial Review Board recommended to Director Tim O’Malley and Archbishop Bernard Hebda that Joseph “is not fit to return to ministry,” the release stated.

Joseph appeared before the board and was given the opportunity to testify and provide information.

Hebda and O’Malley, who serves as the director of ministerial standards and safe environment, agreed with that recommendation, according to a statement from Susan Mulheron, chancellor for Canonical Affairs at the Archdiocese.

“That action, however, is not the same as definitively adjudicating and resolving the matter under the Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law,” she said. The canonical penal process includes the appointment of “qualified personnel” to review the results of the investigation and determine if Joseph violated Canon Law.

“This process results in a decision as to what actions must be taken, which could include application of a penalty or other proportionate disciplinary measures if warranted, or in the case of innocence, a statement of exoneration,” she said.

“Reverend Joseph has denied any wrongdoing and will continue to be afforded due process as the final determination regarding his status is made,” the release stated.

Joseph has remained out of ministry and is prohibited from celebrating mass with laity, hearing confessions, preaching, assisting at weddings or funerals or “otherwise engaging in any priestly ministry,” according to the release. He’s also not allowed to wear a collar or present himself as a priest publicly.

Joseph did not respond to a call for comment.

BACKGROUND

The archdiocese first announced Joseph was to be moved from St. Nicholas Catholic Church to work at its Metropolitan Tribunal Offices in St. Paul in January 2018.

Joseph had served the church for nearly a decade and his removal prompted outcry from many parishioners, who hoped the archdiocese would extend Joseph’s time to ensure a smooth transition to new leadership.

Days before he was to officially leave the church, the archdiocese removed Joseph, citing an allegation of sexual misconduct.

Carver County Sheriff’s Office investigation reports obtained by the newspaper last year indicated one person alleged sexual misconduct against Joseph. The person alleged there were three occasions of misconduct, two in 2017 and one on Jan. 9, 2018.

St. Nicholas Catholic Church administration said there have never been reports of impropriety and that the church is debt-free because of Joseph, according to the documents.

Staff Reporter

Alex Chhith is a staff reporter at the Chaska Herald. In her spare time, she enjoys walking her dogs (Cody and Sam), catching up on the Game of Thrones and finding new restaurants. Follow her on Twitter @AlexChhith.

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