From Bishop Andrew H Cozzens
At the request of the Clergy Review Board, Archbishop John C. Nienstedt has temporarily removed Deacon Joseph Damiani from ministry while an investigation is reopened regarding a previous allegation of a sexual abuse of a minor. Deacon Damiani has consistently denied the accusation, which alleges abuse to have occurred more than 40 years ago, decades before he was ordained. The accusation was brought to local law enforcement, and no criminal charges were filed. To my knowledge, we have not received any allegation that Deacon Damiani has sexually abused a minor or engaged in any sexual misconduct during his ministry.
When the original allegation was received by the archdiocese, an investigation concluded that the claim could not be substantiated, and the matter was closed. However, as part of our ongoing review of clergy files, the Clergy Review Board has now requested the investigation be reopened, in order to make sure that some key facts are clarified and Deacon Damiani’s suitability for ministry established. It is the stated policy of the archdiocese that any priest or deacon with an accusation of sexual abuse of a minor that is not obviously false must not be in ministry pending a full investigation of the claim. This process was even followed with regard to Archbishop Nienstedt earlier this year, who stepped down from public ministry while an investigation into an allegation from a mandated reporter was completed. He has since returned to public ministry.
Deacon Damiani has served as the deacon at Annunciation Catholic Church in Minneapolis, and on staff at Gichitwaa Kateri Catholic Church in Minneapolis in the Office of Indian Affairs since 2009. The staffs of both Annunciation Catholic Church and Gichitwaa Kateri Catholic Church have been notified.
The Clergy Review Board is made up of lay people and clergy with expertise in sexual abuse, health care, mental health, law, education, and includes parents and victims of abuse. They serve as a confidential, advisory, consultative body that advises thearchbishop and the Episcopal Vicar for Ministerial Standards in their assessment of allegations of sexual abuse of minors by priests and deacons.
Anyone having knowledge of abuse of a minor should call civil authorities immediately.