Since an issue involving Father Jeff Gatlin and Saint Francis of Assisi Parish has been reported on by the public media over the last few days, I want to take some time to review the steps we took:
- In mid-May, Father Jeff Gatlin, pastor of Saint Francis of Assisi Parish in Louisville, was taking pictures of St. Francis of Assisi school field day activities. The parish and the Archdiocese received one specific complaint about a possible inappropriate photo and some general reports about students being uncomfortable with the picture taking.
- Though Father Gatlin denied taking any inappropriate photos, he stepped aside as pastor while an investigation could be carried out. Per archdiocesan policy, the principal of the school called Child Protective Services, and the parent who made the specific complaint also was advised to call CPS.
- Father Gatlin informed parents that he was stepping aside while Child Protective Services investigated the situation.
- I appointed Father Joe Graffis as the temporary administrator of the parish, and Father Jeff Shooner, Vicar of Priests, spoke at the weekend Masses to advise parishioners of Father Gatlin’s decision to step down, the investigation that was underway, and Father Graffis’ appointment.
- Representatives from Child Protective Services reviewed what occurred and spoke to parents of students. They have informed us that they do not have information that would lead to a substantiated case of any criminal activity.
- In the meantime, Father Gatlin had entered into treatment for health issues. He eventually decided to resign as pastor so that he could focus on his health. The treatment he is seeking has nothing to do with any accusation of sexual abuse of a minor but is related to long-standing health issues. We do not release to the media or to the public details about an individual’s health issues or treatment.
- I sent a letter last week to the parish, sharing the information from Child Protective Services and announcing Father Gatlin’s decision to retire as pastor. I also confirmed the appointment of Father Graffis as temporary administrator of the parish. A pastor for the parish will be appointed in late 2019 or early 2020.
In all cases, the Archdiocese followed its policies on sexual abuse:
- The priest stepped aside after a complaint was received.
- The authorities were notified.
- Parishioners were notified about the investigation.
- Child Protective Services notified us that they do not have information that would lead to a substantiated case of any criminal activity. As always, we will continue to cooperate with them if further questions come up.
- Parishioners were notified of the information we received from CPS and of Father Gatlin’s resignation as pastor of the parish.
One issue that has surfaced is some confusion about the nature of transparency. I informed parishioners what was happening and of the steps that are being taken, consistent with archdiocesan policy. However, I also have to protect the privacy rights of those who share concerns with the Archdiocese as well as those being accused. In addition, our policy is to inform the police and make sure that the accused person steps aside while civil authorities investigate. While such an investigation is going on, the Archdiocese also defers its own investigation to the civil authorities.
If an accusation is deemed credible, I would then inform other parishes (or other settings as appropriate) in which the accused has served and the broader community by putting an official notice in The Record. See our Archdiocese of Louisville Sexual Abuse Review Policies for a listing of these steps here.
I had the opportunity to review this situation this week with our Archdiocese of Louisville Sexual Abuse Review Board and to receive their recommendations. The members of the board supported the steps that I have outlined above.
I thank you for continuing to pray for me and all involved in the pastoral response of the Archdiocese to allegations related to the sexual abuse of minors. I also thank you for reflecting on this and other Archbishop’s Leadership Briefings and sharing your comments with me.