The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has reinstated the priestly faculties of Father Joseph Edward Bradley.
The Bishop of Owensboro, Kentucky (USA) had temporarily suspended Fr Bradley from public ministry in 2019 after the Diocesan Review Board recommended that two allegations of sexual abuse of minors, dating to the early 1980s, be found “substantiated.” Bishop William Medley submitted a report to the CDF, which has competence in such cases, and recommended that the Vatican confirm the suspension and make it permanent. Father Bradley, for his part, filed a canonical appeal against the decision.
The Diocese announced the results of the appeal in a statement on 26 April, just two years after the Review Board made its recommendations. The Diocesan statement revealed that the Vatican had reinstated Fr Bradley’s faculties and lifted “the restrictions applied.”
The Congregation, however, also recognized “the imprudent behaviour of the cleric [Bradley] throughout the course of his ministry in education” — without, however, indicating what that “imprudent behaviour” involved. The Vatican decree imposed a “penal precept” on Fr Bradley, forbidding him to enter “any primary or secondary school for five years.”
Bishop Medley informed Fr Bradley of the Congregation’s decisions “immediately.” In an interview with a local television station, Fr Bradley said, “I am so happy I can hardly talk. I’ve been on cloud nine.” He added, “I knew I was innocent, and I just thought, ‘It is going to happen’.”
Two substantiated accusations
Fr Bradley was accused in late February 2019 of sexual abuse of a minor during his tenure as principal at Owensboro Catholic High School, a position he held from 1980-1985. The Diocese immediately suspended Fr Bradley, who, at 75, had already retired but was working part-time, “in a voluntary capacity,” as chaplain at Owensboro Catholic High School. The Diocese began an investigation and referred the case to local law enforcement for possible prosecution.
The Diocese received a second allegation of “sexual misconduct” against Fr Bradley on 4 March 2019, which it likewise made known to civil authorities. The second incident was alleged to have taken place in 1980.
Neither ecclesial nor civil authorities have revealed the exact nature of the accusations, and Fr Bradley has consistently maintained his innocence.
Within two months of the initial accusation, the Diocesan Review Board determined that the accusations should be deemed “substantiated.” Civil authorities decided not to file criminal charges against Fr Bradley, with a local prosecutor saying there was insufficient evidence to support the accusations and that it is past the statute of limitations.