Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Judge exonerates Spokane Diocese priest accused of abuse

the Inland Register

(From the April 16, 2015 edition of the Inland Register)

Father Joseph Weitensteiner (left), priest of the Spokane Diocese since his ordination on May 14, 1966, has been returned to active ministry after the last of several sexual abuse claims against him were denied for lack of credibility by Judge Michael Hogan.

News of his reinstatement to active ministry was given to him and shared with his brother priests on March 31.

Father Weitensteiner has been the object of several accusations for sexual abuse. The accusations were made by a number of individuals, most of them former participants in the programs of Morning Star Boys Ranch, where Father Weitensteiner served as director for decades. Following diocesan policy applicable when such accusations are made against a priest or minister of the Diocese, the priest was removed from active ministry by Bishop Skylstad in March 2006.

In 2010 one of the claims was tried in Spokane County Superior Court. The jury found Father Weitensteiner innocent of all charges.

Similarly, each of the other charges against him were investigated by civil authorities or reviewed for judgment by Judge Hogan.

In July 2012 the retired judge was named Claims Reviewer under the terms of the court-approved Plan of Reorganization which provided a roadmap for the implementation of the terms of the Spokane Diocese’s bankruptcy settlement. After inquiry into the charges, every claim against Father Weitensteiner was declared non-credible or was denied.

In mid-March 2015 Judge Hogan reached his decisions regarding four remaining abuse claims that had been made against Father Weitensteiner. After proper examination and scrutiny, Judge Hogan denied all four, just as he had denied all prior cases filed against the priest.

After reviewing the judge’s decisions, the Diocesan Review Board made the recommendation to Father Michael Savelesky, Diocesan Administrator, that Father Weitensteiner be permitted to resume active priestly ministry. The College of Consultors, a special advisory body to the Administrator, reviewed the Board’s recommendation, and took the concurring step of recommending Father Weitensteiner’s reinstatement.

“Consistent with those key recommendations, I wish to inform you that Father Weitensteiner is cleared immediately and without restrictions to return to active ministry as a priest of the Diocese of Spokane,” Father Savelesky wrote to the priests of the Diocese.

“There is no question that these past few years have burdened Father Weitensteiner with much anguish and personal suffering,” wrote Father Savelesky in his announcement. Father Weitensteiner “has given amazing priestly witness to quiet suffering under duress. An individual’s good name, once besmirched, is hard to restore completely; the diocese stands at the ready to do what it can to that end for Father Weitensteiner.”

Father Weitensteiner received the news with profound gratitude for the “incredible support” he has received from his brother priests and friends.

“The diocese maintains a policy of addressing any complaint about charges of sexual abuse of minors by a priest or Church minister,” Father Savelesky told the Inland Register. “It would be unfortunate if this exoneration of Father Weitensteiner were seen as a generic sign of disrespect for any victim of abuse. Hundreds of hours of careful listening have been devoted to these concerns. We share a common commitment to justice.”

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