Rev Louis Douglas

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Priest's clearing raises questions Albany -- Catholic diocese says cleric not guilty of child sexual abuse; parents claim weak investigation  By MICHELE MORGAN BOLTON, Staff writer
First published: Saturday, June 12, 2004  

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany has once again cleared the Rev. Louis Douglas of allegations of child sexual abuse, church officials said Friday. The decision affecting the 74-year-old retired priest became public after victims of clergy abuse and other critics of the church's handling of accusations against priests showed a videotape of an interview with the investigator for the diocese's Sexual Misconduct Review Board.

The tape was of the March 31 meeting between Thomas Martin, a retired State Police investigator hired by the review board to probe allegations against priests, and two mothers whose children attended an Albany parish school in 1992 when Douglas was the pastor.

The women accused Douglas of abusing boys, though not their sons, at St. Catherine of Siena parish. Douglas then retired and moved to Delaware, where he worked part time for the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington until allegations against him surfaced again in 2003.

During the hourlong meeting with Pamela Brace and Marcia Preusser of Albany, Martin told the mothers that he had never heard of Douglas before coming to interview them.

"I check out all the facts and report it to the panel," Martin said. "But nobody ever said anything to me about Father Douglas. That's why I didn't report anything."

Timothy Sawicki, 44, of Schenectady, who was at the news conference on Friday at which the tape was shown, had also previously accused Douglas of sexually abusing him in the 1970s. He named the priest in a 2003 lawsuit he filed in state Supreme Court in Schenectady. The suit was later dismissed.

Martin said he was busy investigating claims against at least 150 clerics. He said he had "priests coming out of his ears." He told the women he does not have access to the personnel files of priests and it is up to the bishop to make them available to the review board.

On Friday, Brace and Preusser said those files would show that they had met with Hubbard in 1993 and that he told them at the time that Douglas was being sent to New Mexico for treatment and wouldn't be allowed around children.

Clearly, the inquiry into Douglas was lacking, Preusser said, and "If I had to make a guess, I'd say it stopped after Tom Martin left us that night."
Diocese of Wilmington spokesman Bob Crebbs said he had received no word from Albany that Douglas has been cleared to return to ministry: "(His) status hasn't changed," Crebbs said Friday. "We're waiting for information before we make any determination."

Diocese spokesman Kenneth Goldfarb said allegations against Douglas were investigated three times: in 1992, when they were first raised by parents at the school; in 2002, after Hubbard returned from the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference in Dallas which established a zero tolerance police on clergy abuse; and, again in March.

"All three investigations revealed the same conclusion that, based on the evidence, no sexual abuse happened," Goldfarb said.
Several weeks after the review panel cleared Douglas this year, Sawicki and the two mothers demanded a new investigation, saying they had never been contacted about their allegations against the priest.

Goldfarb said Brace and Preusser misinterpreted their meeting with Hubbard. Goldfarb also said Martin had no prior information about Douglas because he wasn't hired until the fall of 2002.

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