Fr. Raul cleared by church of allegations, but not misconduct
Father Raul Covarrubias, the parish priest for Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church in Mountain Home who was placed on administrative leave at the end of September following allegations of sexual abuse of a minor, has been cleared of the charges following an internal investigation of the Catholic diocese.
But the investigation did identify some misconduct on Fr. Raul's part, which was not specified in a statement read to parishioners during services held over the weekend at the church by Bishop Michael P. Driscoll.
Following the allegations, Fr. Raul had been placed on administrative leave, standard practice for the church, while an investigative team was formed to address the allegations.
In the statement read to parishioners. Driscoll said that "after a thorough investigation, they (the investigators) have concluded no sexual abuse of a minor occurred, nor were any civil laws broken."
It was the first time the church had identified the type of abuse for which Raul was being investigated. The Mountain Home News has found no evidence that any criminal case was ever opened in the matter.
Driscoll went on in his prepared statement to note that: "The investigation did reveal that misconduct occurred, which Fr. Raul needs to address. Fr. Raul has agreed with that finding.
"Fr. Raul has requested, and we have encouraged, that these issues be addressed with professional help. This help has begun for Fr. Raul and will continue for as long as needed.
"After Fr. Raul has completed a professional program, it is hoped that he will resume active ministry," the bishop told those attending mass at the church this weekend.
Driscoll did not indicate if Fr. Raul would ever be returned to this parish, but across the country it has been typical for the church to reassign priests involved in such investigations to other parishes. In response to questions by the Mountain Home News, diocese spokesman Mike Brown said that "it is too early to know" if Fr. Raul would return to the parish. "He is receiving professional help and the duration and effectiveness of that help has yet to be determined."
There also was no immediate word on when the services of a full-time parish priest would be restored to Our Lady of Good Counsel, but Brown said "the bishop is committed to continuing to provide access to the sacraments to those in the parish, however, the details are not yet available." The local parish priest also supervises the churches in Glenns Ferry and Grand View.
As part of the statement read to the parish members this weekend, Driscoll noted that "out of respect for the privacy of those involved in this issue, I am unable to go into greater detail.
"I am dealing with this matter in a sensitive and appropriate manner --keeping in mind the well being of all those affected by this matter, including that of the parish community.
"In the meantime, I will continue to do all that is possible to ensure the celebration of mass and the other sacraments at Our Lady of Good Counsel.
"During the time ahead, please keep in your prayers the well-being of the person who brought this issue forward.
"I realize that this is also a difficult time for the parish. Nevertheless, I am certain that God's grace, your dedication to this Catholic community and the professional help that Fr. Raul has requested, will promote healing in individual lives and in the parish as a whole."