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Catholic priest removed from ministry in Oklahoma

Rev. James Mickus

Rev. James Mickus

A Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City has been removed from ministry again pending investigation of an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor, according to a statement on the archdiocese' website.

Archbishop Paul Coakley on Sunday announced the removal of the Rev. James Mickus, pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in Chandler and Saint Louis Catholic Church in Stroud.

Coakley informed parishioners in person Sunday morning.

The statement on the website says this allegation, which does not involve Mickus's current parishes, is under review by the archdiocesan Review Board, which was created in 2002 to review allegations of abuse and advise the archbishop.

The allegation also is being reviewed by McAfee and Taft, a firm hired by the archdiocese to review and investigate allegations of abuse by priests from 1960 to 2018.

An administrator will be assigned to the parish in Chandler and the mission in Stroud.

This is the second time Mickus has been removed from the ministry pending an investigation.

In 2002, then-Archbishop Eusebius Beltran temporarily removed Mickus from his position at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Enid after a man called the archdiocese's pastoral response hotline and said the priest had sexually abused him 20 years earlier.

Mickus was reinstated to the ministry in 2003 after a review board could find no evidence to support the allegations against him, church officials said at the time.

The current removal of Mickus is related to the earlier investigation, said Diane Clay, spokeswoman for the archdiocese. More information will be provided later, she said.

The allegation against Mickus is latest in a growing list of allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests that has rocked the nation and the local archdiocese.

A highly disturbing grand jury report was released earlier this year that alleged abuse of more than 1,000 children by hundreds of Catholic priests in Pennsylvania.

That report prompted a Minnesota man to write an Aug. 17 letter to the Oklahoma City archdiocese alleging that he had been molested by a priest named Benjamin Zoeller in the 1980s when the alleged victim was a 16-year-old parishioner at St. Patrick's Catholic Church, 2121 N Portland.

The local archdiocese investigated and reported Zoeller had been removed as a priest with the archdiocese in 2002 because "credible accusations of abuse" and had been formally relieved of his priestly rights and duties in 2011 by Pope Benedict XVI.

Archdiocese officials later discovered Zoeller was still in the community and volunteering at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 2706 S Shartel. The archdiocese quickly informed the pastor of Zoeller's background and said he should no longer be allowed to volunteer.

Zoeller was never charged with sexual abuse related to the incident.

The local archdiocese has promised greater transparency in the future and the spokeswoman said the archdiocese plans to post a list of names on its website of priests who have been credibly accused of abuse.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” requires the removal from ministry any priest, deacon or other religious upon determination of a credible claim of sexual misconduct with a minor.

In its statement, the archdiocese reiterates that under Oklahoma law, all individuals must report an incident or suspicion of sexual abuse of a minor to civil authorities. The Oklahoma Department of Human Services has an abuse reporting hotline at 800-522-3511.

The archdiocese also provides an Abuse of Minors Pastoral Response Hotline for reporting abuse, past or present, by a member of the clergy or other church personnel — 405-720-9878. The archdiocesan victim assistance coordinator, a licensed professional counselor, will respond to calls to the pastoral hotline.

The Rev. James Mickus has served at these parishes:

• Saint Joseph, Bison
• Our Lady of Sorrows, Chandler
• Saint Francis Xavier, Enid
• Chaplain, Vance Air Force Base, Enid
• Mission of Saint Ann, Fairview
• Chaplain, Oklahoma State Reformatory, Granite
• Mission of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Hollis
• Chaplain, Lexington Correctional Center
• Sacred Heart, Mangum
• Saint Philip Neri, Midwest City
• Saint Joseph, Norman
• Christ the King, Oklahoma City
• Saint Patrick, Oklahoma City
• Saint Mary, Ponca City
• Saint Louis, Stroud

Randy Ellis

For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two... Read more ›