Father Bradley Barber, administrator of St. Joseph Church in Fayetteville, was placed on suspension Aug. 4 after the diocese received information that the Fayetteville police were investigating an allegation of sexual misconduct with an adult against him.
Bishop Taylor said an adult male alleges that he had sexual contact with Father Barber in the rectory. The Fayetteville police completed its investigation Monday, Aug. 10 and no charges were filed.
"But what is clear is that Father Barber has violated our trust in him, the consequence of which should be no surprise to him or anyone else: immediate removal from ministry while the facts of the case are investigated, and permanent expulsion from ministry if the allegations are verified," the bishop wrote in his pulpit letter.
Father Barber, 53, a priest on loan from the Diocese of Corpus Christi, Texas, came to Arkansas in 2007 to serve in Fayetteville. He is a former Episcopal priest who converted to Catholicism and given permission to become a Catholic priest. He and his wife have four children.
Diocesan officials have met with the people involved. They have asked any parishioners to come forward who also might have similar allegations against the priest.
Father Barber was told "I have withdrawn his faculties as a priest and that he is forbidden to exercise any priestly ministry except in danger of death. He is also forbidden to set foot on the property of St. Joseph Parish and must attend Mass elsewhere," the bishop wrote.
Bishop Taylor said the safety of minors is "our biggest concern" in following the U.S. bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, but "scandalous sexual activity" with adults results in immediate suspension as well.
Corpus Christi Bishop Edmond Carmody has been "fully informed" of the allegation, the bishop said.
"My dear people,
"This is the saddest letter I have ever had to write. As you know, our diocese is committed to ensuring the safety of our parishioners and the personal integrity of all who exercise ministry in the Church. The biggest concern of our VIRTUS program has been the protection of minors since they are the most vulnerable members of society, but our concern is not limited to minors. Your priests and deacons know that any scandalous sexual activity - even with adults - will result in removal from ministry, which is why I am writing you today.
"This last Tuesday, Aug. 4, we received word that Father Bradley Barber, who has been the administrator of your parish for the last two years, is alleged to have engaged in sexual activity with an adult male between 3 and 5 a.m. in the parish rectory. This is not a case of child molestation because the alleged victim is over 18 years of age.
"It is also not clear yet whether criminal charges will be filed. But what is clear is that Father Barber has violated our trust in him, the consequence of which should be no surprise to him or anyone else: immediate removal from ministry while the facts of the case are investigated, and permanent expulsion from ministry if the allegations are verified. In this regard, I would like to ask anyone else who may have an allegation of harm by Father Barber to please come forward. We have received only this one allegation, but if there are more incidents, we need to know it.
"As you may know, Father Barber is a priest of the Diocese of Corpus Christi, Texas, and so we are keeping his bishop fully informed. Our chancellor for canonical affairs, Deacon Bo McAllister, responded to this allegation by contacting by telephone the parties concerned or their lawyers on Tuesday, the very day we received word of this incident. On Wednesday he traveled to Fayetteville and met with all parties and their attorneys, including the alleged victim, Father Barber and his wife, the police, Msgr. David LeSieur who is the dean of this deanery, and the staff of St. Joseph Parish. He suspended Father Bradley from ministry and offered to provide counseling and psychological care to all parties affected. He also made it clear to all that we would not do anything that might compromise the ongoing police investigation of this incident. Deacon McAllister informed Father Barber that I have withdrawn his faculties as a priest and that he is forbidden to exercise any priestly ministry except in danger of death. He is also forbidden to set foot on the property of St. Joseph Parish and must attend Mass elsewhere.
"I am sorry that I am not able to be with you today to discuss this matter with you in person, but I would like to invite you to come to a special Mass that I will celebrate here at St. Joseph tomorrow (Monday) evening at 7 p.m. In this Mass we will be praying for healing for Father Barber's alleged victim, for Father Barber himself and for his family (who will not be present for this Mass), and for your parish - this is now the third time in recent years that you have lost a priest in scandalous circumstances, which is in itself a reason for all of us to spend time in prayer. Afterwards, I will meet with your parish council to discuss the pastoral care of your parish in the immediate future.
"Please keep in your prayers all those who have been harmed by this tragic event - especially the alleged victim, but also Father Barber and his family at this excruciatingly difficult time. Please also keep me and your parish staff in your prayers as we do our best to deal with this painful matter as God would want.
Sincerely in Christ,
+Anthony B. Taylor
Bishop of Little Rock"
A Spanish version of the letter is available at www.dolr.org.
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