Evansville Catholic Diocese: Father Etienne placed on leave following sexual misconduct allegation

Evansville Catholic Diocese: Father Etienne placed on leave following sexual misconduct allegation
Published: Apr. 6, 2022 at 5:44 PM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - Officials with the Catholic Diocese of Evansville say Father Bernie Etienne has been placed on administrative leave while they investigate an allegation of sexual misconduct.

Father Bernie Etienne
Father Bernie Etienne(Holy Rosary Catholic Church)

According to a press release, the incident allegedly happened more than 20 years ago and civil authorities and the Diocesan Review board have been notified.

Officials say Etienne strongly denies the claim.

Mike McDonnell is the Communications Manager of SNAP, which is the” Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.”

His organization specializes in researching and understanding abuse at the hands of clergy members.

They also understand the process that takes place after an initial accusation.

“The investigation itself is part of a canonical process,” says McDonnell, “So, it’s an internal investigation within the Diocese.”

The investigation is similar to that of a regular police investigation, with a few key differences.

They still have an investigator go out and collect information and talk to people.

“However, this information is only brought back to what they call a review board,” says McDonnell.

After that, the review board will check over the information to determine whether the claim is valid.

McDonnell says that Church officials make the final decision.

“Ultimately it comes down to the bishop to decide whether it’s credible or it’s not a credible allegation,” says McDonnell.

McDonnell says he understands the skepticism that some may feel when they hear the allegation, especially considering the date of the alleged crimes.

“I empathize with those individuals, because there was, for a very long period of time, for me,” says McDonnell, “I was a survivor myself, I was in complete denial.”

The statement from the diocese states that Father Alex Zenthoefer has been appointed temporary administrator of Holy Rosary Parish

The Evansville Catholic Diocese wants people to know if they are a victim of sexual misconduct by a person ministering on behalf of the church, or if you know of anyone who has been a victim of such misconduct, to contact civil authorities and the Diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator at 812-490-9565 or toll-free at 866-200-3004.

SNAP says they “encourage anyone who may have experienced, witnessed, or suspected any harm or impropriety in the Catholic Church in Indiana to report directly to law enforcement.” They also have information for survivors here.

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