A priest who spent two years at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Glenwood, has been placed on indefinite administrative leave after an Allegation Review Committee for the Diocese of Des Moines determined he sexually abused a minor.
The alleged abuse by Rev. Howard Fitzgerald took place decades ago, according to a statement released last week by the diocese. Bishop Richard Pates apologized to the victim, who asked for anonymity.
Pates said findings of the diocese’s investigation will be forwarded to the Vatican. While on leave, Fitzgerald will not be allowed to function as a priest and he’s been asked by the bishop to refrain from wearing clerical garb.
“It’s a top priority that we address all credible allegations of sexual abuse in the manner outlined by the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” Pates said. “In addition, the diocese continues to do all it can to ensure we create a safe environment for children and all vulnerable individuals in our churches and schools.”
The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young people was established in 2002 by U.S. bishops as a set of guidelines for reporting sexual abuse, accountability and mandatory education programs in parishes and schools.
Fitzgerald was the priest at Holy Rosary Church from 2011-2013. He’s been assigned to numerous parishes and schools in western and central Iowa during his tenure with the diocese, dating back to the late 1970s and early 1980s when he was at St. Albert High School in Council Bluffs. Some of his other assignments over the past 30-plus years include churches in Westphalia, Portsmouth, Harlan, Panama, Dunlap, Woodbine, Mondamin, Council Bluffs, Altoona and Urbandale. After leaving Glenwood last fall, he was assigned to churches in Indianola and St. Marys, and was also serving in a chaplain role at Simpson College.
The Diocese of Des Moines Allegation Review Committee has among its members a judge, licensed clinical social worker, police detective, attorney, priest and deacon.
Pates said the local law enforcement agency in the community where the alleged abuse occurred was notified of the diocese’s findings. Mills County Sheriff Eugene Goos and Glenwood Police Chief Eric Johansen said they haven’t been contacted by the diocese and there is no indication sexual abuse took place during Fitzgerald’s assignment in Glenwood.