High Ranking Paulist Priest Resigns Position After Inappropriate Contact with a Woman

(For Immediate Release August 28, 2023) 

The second-in-command of an order of U.S. Catholic priests resigned after he confirmed a woman’s report in early August that he had touched her sexually a few days earlier. SNAP believes that the victim in this case deserves a lot of praise for speaking out so quickly. The Paulists are also to be commended for swiftly suspending the clergyman, and for notifying their communities about his suspension.

Fr. Frank Desiderio, the Vice President of the Paulist Fathers, stepped down last week after admitting that he made unwanted sexual contact with a woman. The victim contacted Paulist President Fr. René Constanza on August 10th. Fr. Desiderio has been a Paulist since 1978 and was ordained in 1982. As of August 24th, the Paulists claimed that there were no other reported incidents against the clergyman.

We continue to hear Catholic officials say incidents of sexual abuse by clergy are "a thing of the past." In our opinion, this is dangerous because it lulls the faithful into assuming that today's priests never pose a threat. Sadly, this is not true. There are new cases of juvenile and adult criminality reported each month.

Pope Francis has decreed that the sexual abuse of adults by priests is wrong and a canonical crime. We therefore urge the Paulist's to expand their list of accused to include those who, like Fr. Desiderio, harm parishioners who are over the age of majority.

We hope the Paulist Community is true to its statement of support for the victim. We also urge them to turn this information over to law enforcement, and we encourage law enforcement to act swiftly to investigate. Placement into a treatment facility has not been shown to be a panacea for clergy sex crimes in the past. Moreover, we know that those who engage in this type of behavior rarely have just one victim. We believe that there may be others who were hurt by Fr. Desiderio who are still suffering alone and in silence. We urge them to make a police report before going to the Church, and we hope that this case will assure them that their outcry will be taken seriously and that their voices will be safely heard.

CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Interim Executive Director ([email protected], 267-261-0578)  Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board President ([email protected], 814-341-8386)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 35 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)


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