Bishop apologizes for priest's advances

Posted: Thursday, August 07, 2003

ANCHORAGE - A molestation accusation against a Bethel priest has been resolved after a published apology in regional newspapers, but authorities are still investigating the matter.

The alleged victim accused the 89-year-old priest, the Rev. Henry Hargreaves, of making "inappropriate advances" toward her April 15. The victim, who has asked to remain unnamed, is in her 60s.

Hargreaves, a Jesuit, was placed on leave and returned to a Jesuit facility in Oregon for evaluation and treatment. A spokesman for the Jesuits in Oregon said the woman's complaint was the only allegation of sexual misconduct against Hargreaves in a career that has spanned more than half a century, nearly all of it in Alaska. It is unlikely Hargreaves will return, the spokesman said.

Last month, Bishop Donald Kettler of the Fairbanks Diocese, which includes Bethel and most of the coastal and Interior villages, publicly apologized for Hargreaves' conduct in advertisements published in the Delta Discovery and the Tundra Drums, Bethel's two weekly newspapers. The statement also criticized residents who criticized the victim.

"The Catholic Bishop of Northern Alaska acknowledges that Father Hargreaves inappropriately touched a parishioner," the ad said. "While there have been public comments of support for Father Hargreaves, the Catholic Bishop of Northern Alaska notes also that certain public comments have been critical of others involved. Criticism of those involved is unhelpful and unwarranted."

Some of the local support for Hargreaves spilled over into anonymous attacks against the woman that appeared in a local Internet forum. Hargreaves is widely revered, and even the woman's lawyer in Bethel, Jim Valcarce, called him a "wonderful priest" who inappropriately touched the woman.

Valcarce said the woman is satisfied with the apology and plans no other action. Another attorney associated with the case, Ken Roosa in Anchorage, said the woman was very upset by people who blamed her or who said she was "nuts" or a money-grubber who only wanted to sue the church.

"It hurts for someone in a small community, unable to defend herself," Roosa said.

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