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Alleged victim speaks to Catholic investigating panel

Diocese-appointed committee hears claims of sexual abuse by priest

Posted: Monday, April 21, 2003

A man who accused a Juneau Catholic priest of sexually abusing him in the early 1980s said he was treated "fairly and with respect" during the two meetings he had last week with the Juneau Diocese lay committee investigating the allegations.

Joel Post said he was asked by the diocese to testify before the 10-member committee Wednesday and again Saturday. The testimony was part of the committee's investigation into allegations against the Rev. Michael Nash, former pastor of the Cathedral of the Nativity.

The lay committee, established by the diocese last summer, investigates claims of sexual abuse by priests in the diocese. Post said Nash was not present for his testimony. Post also declined comment on details of his statements to the committee.

Nash voluntarily stepped down from his pastoral duties in November when Post sent a written statement to the diocese claiming Nash raped him over four years beginning when Post was 11.

Earlier this month the committee issued a written statement saying it still is investigating Post's claims, but had found sufficient evidence to back several additional claims of inappropriate behavior by Nash from other individuals. The committee forwarded its findings to the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith in Rome, which will determine whether the new allegations meet the church's criteria for sexual abuse of a minor. If the doctrinal congregation decides Nash is guilty according to church law, he will be defrocked, Juneau Bishop Michael Warfel said in a November interview with the Empire.

Nash's civil attorney, Louis Menendez, had no comment on Post testifying. In past interviews, Menendez has said Nash maintains he is innocent of all allegations.

In a written statement to the Empire, the Rev. Pat Travers, spokesman for the lay committee, declined comment on Post's testimony.

"For very serious reasons, it is important that this matter remain highly confidential at this time," the statement said. "Bishop Warfel, with the assistance of the Review Board, is continuing to investigate Mr. Post's allegations against Father Nash. At this point, I would not be able to speculate about a timetable for this investigation, even if I were authorized to do so."

Post said that although the process has been painful, he is glad he told his story and is thankful to other parishioners for coming forward.

"It hurts for a victim to say it, and it hurts for a community to hear it," said Post. "But it's the only way to start breaking down the veil of silence. The church needs to have full, open disclosure. The only way to get to the healing is to come clean no matter how ugly the words are."

Post said he hopes other alleged victims, if there are any, come forward.

"If I hadn't done this, it would mean no relationships," he said. "What I'm looking for is to be able to commit to a solid, healthy relationship, being emotionally healthy, having children, being a strong emotional support for someone and good sex. That's what all this really boils down to for me."

Post was quoted in an earlier interview as saying he felt "vindicated" by the committee's decision to send its findings to the Vatican. He said Friday that vindication isn't his goal.

"I'm not looking for vindication," he said. "I'm looking for peace. I'm looking to reach a point of peace within myself."

Melanie Plenda can be reached at mplenda@juneauempire.com.



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