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Mendota priest resigns from church after incident with teen reviewed

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A Dakota County Catholic priest has resigned after a review of an incident involving a teen.

The Rev. Joseph Gallatin since December had been on a leave of absence as a pastor at the Church of St. Peter in Mendota as officials with the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis re-examined the 1998 incident.

According to an archdiocese statement, Gallatin had been on a mission trip when he "rubbed the sleeping teenager’s chest and abdomen, under the shirt, because the teen was snoring."

The teen told other chaperones, and a clergy review board ruled that Gallatin should be evaluated and monitored and receive therapy.

No other inappropriate behavior involving Gallatin has been reported in the last 16 years, the archdiocese notes. But the archdiocese reviewed the incident again as part of a broader review of clergy files.

Gallatin was one of two priests whose files were reviewed by the Los Angeles-based Kinsale Management Consulting firm, which the archdiocese hired amid criticism that church leaders were not aggressively investigating allegations of priest sexual abuse, the Star Tribune notes.

In the end, the Clergy Review Board determined that Gallatin's act did not violate the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, the archdiocese statement says. Police were contacted and no charges have been filed.

Still, church leaders restricted Gallatin's responsibilities, banning him from ministry involving minors. Gallatin resigned from the church position, and Gallatin was to be posted to a new job "where he will not have any role in a parish setting or any other setting in which he will have vocational responsibilities that involve minors."

Gallatin issued a statement on the church's website:

“I am truly sorry for the pain that this has caused the parish. I am grateful to God for the time I was able to spend here at St. Peter’s, and to all of you for the ways you help to spread God’s message of salvation. So many of you have been a great help to me during this difficult time, and that makes it especially hard to say goodbye. I will always pray for the people of St. Peter’s, even as I begin a new chapter in my life as a priest. I would appreciate it if you would keep me in your prayers to God as well.”

Also on Sunday, the archdiocese reported that Archbishop John Nienstedt had temporarily removed Deacon Joseph Damiani of Church of the Annunciation in Minneapolis from ministry as church officials re-examine an investigation into a “previous allegation of a sexual abuse of a minor.” Damiani had repeatedly denied the claim of abuse, an allegation that is more than 40 years old.

Damiani is also on staff at Gichitwaa Kateri Catholic Church in Minneapolis in the Office of Indian Affairs.

The allegation against Damiani comes from his own younger brothers, who say he abused them when they were children, the Pioneer Press reports. Damiani says the two are spreading lies about him as part of a dispute involving money in their father's trust.

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