from The Living Church:
Ralph E. Johnson, 79, voluntarily renounced orders April 28 and has been deposed from the priesthood after an investigation by members of the pastoral response team in the Diocese of Central New York determined that an allegation of sexual misconduct against him was credible and deserved further investigation. Mr. Johnson was rector of St. Paul’s Church, Owego, N.Y., from 1970 to 1977.
A former Owego resident said in a written affidavit that Mr. Johnson molested him at least 20 times in the rectory and at a cabin owned by Mr. Johnson in Gibson, Pa. The man, who was about 15 at the time, lives in Florida. Mr. Johnson retired from the ministry in 1989.
In a prepared statement for the media, the Diocese of Central New York stated “Because of his advanced age, frail health and desire to avoid the stress of a protracted prosecution and defense, Fr. Johnson agreed to voluntarily renounce his orders. In other words, admitting no guilt, he has agreed to abide by the canons of the Church which, with the consent of the majority of all the members of the standing committee, will result in a Sentence of Deposition.”
The lawyer for another former rector of St. Paul’s, Owego, said the resignation of Mr. Johnson should vindicate his client, the Rev. David G. Bollinger, who has been inhibited by the Rt. Rev. Gladstone B. Adams III, Bishop of Central New York. Fr. Bollinger, who retired last January, alerted the diocese in 2002 that there were allegations against Mr. Johnson. He has been inhibited since May 31, 2005, and never formally charged, according to his lawyer, David Gouldin.
“The bishop has an obligation under the canons to provide a specific list of charges,” Mr. Gouldin told The Living Church.
Fr. Bollinger contends that there are numerous allegations of sexual misconduct against Mr. Johnson and that the inhibition against him was an attempt to discredit and silence him from pursuing justice for the alleged victims. Prior to his retirement, Fr. Bollinger filed a $4.35 million suit against Bishop Adams and the diocese, accusing them of failing to pursue the sexual misconduct allegations adequately and retaliating against him by alleging misuse of funds. Fr. Bollinger denies he misused any funds. In his lawsuit, he claims that in an attempt to uncover wrongdoing by him, the diocesan controller illegally searched through the Bollingers’ personal financial records on the internet. That person has since accepted another position and is no longer employed by the diocese [TLC, May 14].
“Over the last several years, the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York has confronted recurring rumors suggesting that the Rev. Ralph Johnson, former rector of St. Paul’s Church in Owego, N.Y., had engaged in some form of misconduct involving parishioners back in the 1970s,” the diocese said in its prepared statement. “Since June 2002, the diocese has made numerous attempts to investigate these claims and allegations. Until now, our investigations proved fruitless and inconclusive because no victim had ever come forward to meet with me or with the Diocesan Pastoral Response Team. Without the existence and sworn testimony of a victim, we were powerless to proceed.”