by Max Brantley
A group that works with victims of abuse by priests is publicizing the arrest in Little Rock last week of a former St. Louis priest wanted on a charge of molesting a St. Louis youth in 2000.
Joseph Ross has been living in Little Rock since he was removed from the priesthood following a 2002 conviction. He was arrested Friday and flown back to Missouri today. The Pulaski County sheriff's office, which supplied the mug shot taken after Ross' arrest, said he lived in an apartment on Napa Valley Road, but his work in Little Rock, if any, wasn't immediately known.
The arrest warrant for Ross from Missouri indicates he's charged in an 11-count indictment with molestation and rape charges related to sex with a child younger than 12.
For immediate release: Thursday, October 2, 2008
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, national director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
Fr. Joseph D. Ross moved to Arkansas after being suspended in St. Louis in 2002 for multiple sex offenses. Last Friday, he was arrested in Pulaski County for molesting a St. Louis child around 2000.
We cannot praise this brave, strong, compassionate teenager enough for showing such courage. We hope St. Louisans will ask tough questions of archdiocesan officials who knowingly and secretly, in the 1990s, moved Ross to an unsuspecting parish after he had already pled guilty to molesting a boy. And we hope that Little Rock citizens and Catholics will ask their children if they were hurt by Ross.
Ross pleaded guilty in 1988 to sexually assaulting an 11 year old boy in Dec. 1986. He was sentenced to 2 years probation and treatment. Ross acknowledged during an investigation in 1987-1988 that he had earlier been accused of molesting one youth in the 1970s and had been arrested for propositioning a police officer and for public indecency.
The archdiocese placed him on leave March 2002. In August of 2002, church officials announced that Ross had been defrocked. A civil suit against Ross was filed in November 2002 alleging that he abused a 14 year old boy in 1977.
Out of concern for the teen's privacy, SNAP is not disclosing the latest victim's age, gender or city/state of residence.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nation's oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We've been around for 17 years and have more than 8,000 members across the country. Despite the word "priest" in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
KSDK -- A former St. Louis priest was arrested in Arkansas last week, accused of sexually assaulting a child at local church.
Joseph Ross, currently awaiting extradition back to St. Louis, hid a dark secret during his time as a priest in the Catholic Churches.
"At least three times, Father Ross was arrested for sexual offenses," said David Clohessy, the President of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
In the late 1980s, Ross was arrested and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor of sexual abuse. The Archdiocese sent him for treatment, but he remained in the church for more than a decade, until the Archdiocese kicked him out.
Archdiocese officials would not comment on pending legal issues, but in a statement, they said: "Mr. Ross was removed from the ministry in 2002, under the Archdiocese's policy...we apologize to all those who have been abused by clergy."
Now they're issuing one more apology to Ross's latest alleged victim.
The alleged abuse went on for a period of two years while Ross was assigned at St. Cronan's Catholic Church. That was in 2000. It took eight years after the alleged event to bring charges against Ross.
"The overwhelming majority of priests that abuse kids never ever see the inside of a courtroom, let alone a jail cell," Clohessy said.
So SNAP members said the arrest sends a very clear message.
"If you're being molested and you speak up and you call the police, good things will happen," Clohessy said. "The right things will happen. You will be protected and others will be protected."
Even so, they said there were no true victories in those cases.
The case against Ross will be sealed until he actually appears in court in St. Louis.
Former Priest Faces New Sex Charges
October 1, 2008
Former St. Louis area Priest Joseph Ross was arrested last week in Arkansas on a warrant issued by the St. Louis city attorney.
He is charged with 11 first degree counts of sexual misconduct with a minor...charges that include statutory rape, statutory sodomy, and child molestation.
It began with a phone call that activists say was 8 years overdue.
"The victim contacted me because of the fear that other kids were being hurt," said Mary Pat Benninger of SNAP.
Prosecutors say the victim is a teenager now, but was under the age of 14 at the time of the abuse. SNAP, the watchdog support group for victims, says Ross has a long history of abusing children.
"He's been accused of a number of sex crimes. He's been arrested at least two other times besides this one. He admitted to moleting at least one child," said David Clohessy, national SNAP president.
In 2002, two years after the alleged abuse was said to have occurred here at St. Cronans, the Archdiocese of St. Louis removed Ross as pastor because of a guilty plea he had entered in 1988. He was later defrocked by the Pope.
SNAP claims Ross was transferred to St. Cronins even though the church was aware of other incidents.
In a written statement the Archdiocese said it's their policy not to comment on pending legal matters. It apologized to all who have been abused by clergy.
So why did it take the victim eight years to come forward? Well those who've been molested by priests say telling someone is not easy.
"I was terrified of the Priest, I was terrified of the church. I was terrified that I was going to go to hell if I said anything," said Barbara Dorris. She was in her forties before she found the courage to report her abuse at the hands of a different priest.
Ross remains in custody in Arkansas,where prosecutors say he will not fight extradition. Details of the trip back to St. Louis are being worked out.