Indianola priest on leave after allegations of sexual abuse

by Kate Hayden

Father Howard Fitzgerald of the St. Thomas Aquinas Parish was placed on indefinite administrative leave after allegations of a ‘decades-old’ incident of sexual abuse were found credible.

The Des Moines diocesan Allegation Review Committee determined allegations of the sexual abuse of a minor were credible and passed findings to Bishop Richard Pates, who placed Father Fitzgerald on leave. Local law enforcement and the Vatican have been informed, according to the press release.

Father Fitzgerald was assigned to St. Thomas Aquinas in November 2013 and served as a liaison between the parish and Simpson College. He led Masses at Smith Chapel on Sunday nights and was present during Holy Week and Ash Wednesday, when he co-officiated a service with Chaplain Mara Bailey. Simpson College received a press release from the Diocese of Des Moines this morning and emailed an announcement to students.

“Father Fitzgerald would have been available to students for personal counsel or spiritual guidance,” President Jay Simmons wrote in the email. “Father Fitzgerald’s duties on Simpson campus effectively ended at the close of the academic year this spring.”

Simpson College is working to ensure Mass for Catholic students in the fall, President Simmons said in a phone call.

“We’ll be working with the Diocese to figure out what arrangements will be made… we’ll work to make sure we have coverage,” President Simmons said.

Bishop Pates will celebrate Masses at St. Thomas Aquinas this weekend, July 5-6, and hopes to address questions, said diocesan communications director Anne Marie Cox.

“He wants to hear people’s concerns after the Masses,” Cox said.

Victims are encouraged to contact the diocesan Victims Advocate Assistant for support and services, Cox said.

Assistant Sherry Knox can be reached at 515-286-2028 or [email protected].