Vatican bars former St. Monica's pastor Kemp from ministry

The Vatican has permanently barred from active ministry former pastor of St. Monica Catholic Church, Rev. Dennis Kemp. The Islander has been on administrative leave since allegations of inappropriate conduct with a minor surfaced in 2007.

The investigation by Mercer Island police detectives was completed in July 2007, after allegations were filed earlier in the month on behalf of a 12-year-old boy and his family. Kemp was immediately put on administrative leave.

When the news was announced at Sunday evening Mass, church members gasped with disbelief and some showed tears.

“The reaction was mixed,” said Larry McDonald, parish administrator. “By and large they were happy the archbishop came to tell the story. As you might expect, there was some sadness and sorrow. But this parish knows it’s all about Jesus Christ and with him, we’ll get through it.”

The priest was investigated regarding incidents of "physical contact" with the boy that occurred over six months, said Mercer Island Police Commander Leslie Burns. The contact had occurred at the church.

“The behavior was deemed inappropriate, but did not reach the bar for a criminal offense,” said Mercer Island Police Chief Ed Holmes.

The Archdiocese's review board heard Kemp's case and unanimously ruled that he should be barred from active ministry. The Vatican backed this decision.

Kemp filed an appeal, according to Seattle Archbishop Alex Brunett, but a Vatican body upheld it.

Now that he has been barred from active ministry, Kemp cannot present himself as a priest or wear the traditional clothing. It is one step shy of "defrocking."

Father Patrick Freitag is the current pastor at St. Monica. He joined the Catholic church in July 2008.

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