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ANCHORAGE - A former Catholic pastor accused of sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy in Michigan will be allowed for now to keep his job in the Archdiocese of Anchorage, church officials said Monday.
The decision on whether the Rev. Timothy Crowley will be removed from church work is up to Anchorage Archbishop Roger L. Schwietz and Lansing Bishop Carl Mengeling, said retired Archbishop Francis T. Hurley, who approved Crowley's transfer to Anchorage in 1995.
"We want very much to keep him," Hurley said. "We are talking about someone who has rehabilitated his life."
But national guidelines adopted Friday at a bishops conference in Dallas to deal with pedophile priests may make that more difficult. One aspect of the policy requires that past abusers, while being allowed to remain in the priesthood, be stripped of all church duties.
Crowley, who served in Puerto Rico and speaks Spanish, has been allowed to say Mass at Our Lady of Guadelupe Parish. He has an administrative job in the curate's office.
No timetable has been set for making a decision.
The Michigan priest first came to Hurley's attention in 1995, when he received a letter from Crowley expressing his wish to come to Alaska. He asked that Hurley call his bishop.
Then-Bishop Kenneth Povish told Hurley that Crowley was guilty of grievous sexual misconduct, had been removed from his Ann Arbor parish in 1993 and received treatment in a two-year rehabilitation program.
"I received from them a very positive report on his ability to control his life," Hurley said.
Before accepting Crowley, Hurley required that he get a psychiatric evaluation. He also consulted with the archdiocese's Sexual Abuse Oversight Committee and outside experts.
Hurley said that at the time he did not ask about the victim or details of what occurred between him and Crowley. "I took him without probing those questions," Hurley said.
Crowley was allowed to live in a parish. A church mentor was assigned to him, and a lay person checked on him periodically.
"Any family that had children was out of bounds for him," Hurley said.
Crowley's record has been clean since arriving in Anchorage, Hurley said.
Since the Sexual Abuse Oversight Committee was formed in 1993, it has dealt with five cases, said Vicar General Father Steven Moore. Two of those were forwarded to police and later dropped.
Hurley and Moore declined to provide details on the cases, citing confidentiality rights of the victims. They said Crowley was the only priest they were aware of in the archdiocese with a problem.
Hurley said the Anchorage archdiocese is responding to the sexual abuse scandal by adding more members to the committee.
"We are deeply, deeply sorry," Hurley said. "This is just a blight on our church. We have found a problem that has been festering for some time."