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San Diego Catholic Priest Suspended Amid Allegations Of Sexual Misconduct

The San Diego Diocesan Pastoral Center, headquarters for the Roman Catholic Church in the San Diego Diocese is shown Tuesday, February 27, 2007.
Associated Press
The San Diego Diocesan Pastoral Center, headquarters for the Roman Catholic Church in the San Diego Diocese is shown Tuesday, February 27, 2007.
San Diego Catholic Priest Suspended Amid Allegations Of Sexual Misconduct
San Diego Catholic Priest Suspended Amid Allegations Of Sexual Misconduct GUEST: Peter Rowe, reporter, The San Diego Union-Tribune

A San Diego priest has been suspended over what the diocese says are credible allegations of sexual misconduct. Reverend Justin Loen Giel is accused of inappropriately touching a teenage girl. The allegations were made twice before but this time stuck after an independent review board found new evidence. Cases like this are being re-examined on the heels of the Pennsylvania grand jury report that found 300 priests had sexually abused hundreds of children over seven decades. Kate CBS's Jane Heinzman spoke with union tribune reporter Peter Rowe who has been covering this story. What do we know about Reverend Justin Lingle. Where was he working and is there a possibility of more victims. Yes I suppose anything's possible at this point. But Reverend Lengel began his work in the diocese in 1980. He had been an associate pastor and later pastor at about a dozen parishes of everyone from Sinito state elkhound to MidCity San Diego. So he has quite an extensive resume here. The complaint though comes from the early 1990s and it was first looked at in 1995 now twice before these these allegations of sexual abuse were dismissed and Reverend Lengel even passed a polygraph. What was the new evidence revealed this time around well we really don't know. It's interesting how he passed these earlier ones I believe in the past 1995 and then again in 2002 the investigations were done internally by officials of the diocese and that 2002 as you mentioned he passed the polygraph test. But these days that's not how it's done these days. The investigation there is what looks to be perhaps a credible accusation. The investigation is done by a professional investigator. He's a retired police or maybe they're private investigators that the diocese hires and they go out and look at the evidence and try and track down any witnesses and check for inconsistencies in the priest's story. And that's what they found this time they found that his story just didn't add up. And what can you tell us about these independent review boards and the one that's been formed to look into these cases. Yeah now the independent review boards the diocese places a lot of faith in these are primarily made up of laypeople. There is a priest who's associated with the board but there are lay attorneys. There is a private investigator who is part of this. Others also counselors. And there also is at least one victim of sexual abuse. And you know there has been criticism that the review board isn't really all that independent and that that's why there has been a lack of accountability. What do critics really mean by that. Yes well this is a point that has raised quite often by the folks at SNAP which is the survivors survivors network of those Abused by Priests. So Tim Lanane who's the president SNAP is saying listen you know the these independent review boards the members are selected by the diocese information that they receive is vetted by the diocese and the bishop does not have to accept their their findings or their recommendations. They are strictly an advisory board. They don't have any real power. Now in this case of course the bishop did accept the findings and remove you know Reverend Lang Geale from from the ranks of the priesthood. And how many other cases. Is the board re-examining and can we expect more priests to be reprimanded. Yeah I asked about that. We really don't know the numbers of cases that are being re-examined. But what what is happening or what I'm told is happening is that the diocese is going back taking a look at cases that were reviewed before 2004 2004 is when the Independent Review Board was established. So they're got to take another look at cases that came before the diocese before 2004 and that process is ongoing. So we may be you know we may be getting more announcements like this one in the future. Do you think criminal investigations will be prompted by findings of this review board like the attorney general did in New York. Well that's that's what the snap people are saying is is kind of what the diocese wants to avoid because in New York and in Pennsylvania you actually had investigators you know civil authority descending on diocesan offices and seizing records and conducting you know full scale criminal investigation. So SNAP is saying well you know what what we're seeing here is is a step to head that off to kind of nip that in the bud with the diocese saying hey look you don't need that because we're taking action on our own. That was capable says Jane Heineman speaking with union tribune reporter Peter Peter Rowe.

A Catholic priest in San Diego has been suspended as church officials investigate allegations of sexual misconduct dating back more than two decades, the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego announced Wednesday.

The Rev. Justin Langille, 65, was removed from ministry by Bishop Robert W. McElroy following a determination by the Diocesan Independent Review Board that Langille had been credibly accused of sexual misconduct with a teenage girl in the early 1990s, according to a diocese statement.

Langille's case was brought before the Independent Review Board as part of the process of reviewing files pertaining to the sexual abuse of minors by clergy in the Diocese of San Diego. That effort was initiated two months ago, when Bishop McElroy asked the board to review allegations against current priests that had been evaluated before the diocese formed the board in 2004.

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If the Independent Review Board reviews an allegation and determines that it is not credible, the priest may be returned to ministry. However, if the board advises the bishop that the accusation is credible, and the bishop accepts those findings, under the zero-tolerance policies followed by the diocese the priest will be suspended and his faculties removed. He would no longer be allowed to publicly function as a priest in San Diego or any other Catholic diocese around the world.

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The case against Langille was examined in 1995 and again in 2002, but the diocese concluded at the time that the allegation could not be substantiated.

In 2002, Langille was given and passed a polygraph test, which was a major factor at the time.

When the Review Board took up the case last month, it commissioned a new search for corroborating evidence by a professional investigator. Significant new information emerged that substantially undermined the credibility of Langille in his denials, according to the diocese.

Langille has not had a full-time assignment in the diocese since 2013, but he has assisted on weekends at the St. Therese and Ascension parishes.