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The Portiuncula Chapel on the campus of the Franciscan University of Steubenville. / Robert Pernett via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0).

Tacna, Peru, Apr 12, 2021 / 19:08 pm (CNA).

A Franciscan priest who once worked in campus ministry at Franciscan University of Steubenville has been indicted in Ohio for the alleged rape of a female patient who was mentally or physically impaired.

 

On April 7, Father David Morrier, T.O.R., was indicted in Ohio by the Jefferson County Grand Jury on two charges of sexual battery and a single charge of rape. He was removed from active ministry in 2015 on unspecified sexual misconduct charges, his Franciscan province has said.

 

The 59-year-old priest is a mental health professional. He allegedly maintained a three-year sexual relationship with a patient the indictment described as “substantially impaired because of a mental or physical condition,” the Steubenville newspaper The Herald Star reports. He allegedly falsely represented to her that sexual conduct was “necessary for mental health treatment purposes.”

 

An April 9 statement from the Office of the Minister Provincial of the Third Order Regular Franciscans’ Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus said that the alleged charges took place between November 2010 and spring 2013.

 

“Fr. Morrier was removed from public ministry in 2015 due to allegations of sexual misconduct,” the provincial’s office said. “He has not exercised public ministry since that time. Being removed from public ministry means that he has not publicly celebrated Mass or any sacraments. The province has cooperated fully with the investigation into this matter.”

 

“The province takes all allegations of sexual misconduct seriously and urges anyone who has been a victim of sexual misconduct to call law enforcement officials immediately,” the statement continued.

 

In an April 8 statement the Diocese of Steubenville said it first became aware of the case “when the alleged victim presented the allegations to the diocese in November 2018.”

 

“Although Father Morrier is not a priest of the Steubenville Diocese, the diocese began an immediate preliminary investigation with the alleged victim and officers with the Steubenville police department,” the statement said.

 

“The Diocese of Steubenville submitted a report to the Minister General of the T.O.R.’s in Rome as well as to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Holy See on December 11, 2018. Since that time, the diocese has continued to work with the Steubenville police department and has provided updates on the investigation to the Holy See,” the statement added. The Steubenville diocese said it takes abuse allegations “most seriously” and “encourages victims of abuse to contact the local police department in whose jurisdiction the abuse occurred.”

 

Morrier was ordained a priest for the Franciscan province in 1997. The charges against him overlap his time as a campus minister at Franciscan University of Steubenville, a position he held through 2014.

 

An April 8 statement from the Franciscan University of Steubenville said “the university has cooperated and will continue to cooperate fully with authorities concerning the conduct of Father David Morrier, T.O.R., prior to 2014.”

 

“Franciscan University removed him permanently from campus ministry, and he was also prohibited from returning to campus,” said the university. It did not clarify the timing of the removal.

 

“Sexual assault is not only a crime but a serious sin,” it added, saying all sexual misconduct complaints face action under the university’s Policy on Discrimination, Harassment and Sexual Misconduct.

 

“Anyone who may have been harmed while at Franciscan University is offered counseling and other appropriate services,” said the university. “Anyone who experienced or is aware of sexual misconduct at Franciscan University is encouraged to make a report to the University and/or the Steubenville Police Department.”

 

After Morrier’s time at Steubenville, he appears to have served at a Franciscan church in Arlington, Texas in the Diocese of Fort Worth. According to a cached version of the St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church and School website, Morrier was announced as the new parochial vicar of the parish on May 1, 2014, with his duties beginning June 3 of that year. The parish is run by the Franciscan Friars, Third Order Regular.

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