Church to relocate American priest from Tagbilaran after history of sexual misconduct revealed

The Church said today it would relocate an American priest from his ministry in central Tagbilaran City, where he has served for many years, after they found out he was convicted of sexual misconduct when he was a seminarian in 1988, ABS-CBNNews.com reports.

According to a Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) official, Father Joseph Skelton is to be moved to a still undisclosed place.

An article published on the CBCP website reveals that Skelton, who is currently serving as associate pastor of St. Vincent Ferrer Parish in Calape town of the Diocese of Tagbilaran, had been convicted with sexual misconduct in 1988 while still a seminarian in Detroit, Michigan.

Skelton's transgression is recorded in BishopAccountability.org, which has a Database of Accused Priests.

Bishop Leopoldo Tumulak, 60, who served Bishop of Tagbilaran from November 28, 1992 until his appointment as Military Ordinary on January 15, 2005 said, "Had I known of his conviction I would not have ordained him." He added they at the Diocese of Tagbilaran had observed the prescribed canonical requirements prior to Skelton's ordination.

Meanwhile, Tagbilaran Bishop Leonardo Medroso said that Skelton has already served his sentence."He was convicted before he became a priest and he has served his penalty of being under probation for three years," he pointed out.

Medroso disclosed that he only learned of Fr. Skelton's past only when a Manila-based newspaper published a story last November 2009.

For his part, reports CBCP News, CBCP President Nereo P. Odchimar said clerical sexual abuse of minors is subject to special instructions "de gravioribus delictis" (on more grievous crimes) under "the competence of the Congregation of the Clergy in Vatican City."

In other words, such cases are sent to Rome for the final decision.

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