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Allentown priest cleared of abuse allegations

An Allentown Diocese priest who had Carbon and Schuylkill County ties was returned to ministry after being cleared of all allegations following a 10-month inquiry conducted by independent investigators.

The diocese announced that the Rev. Robert J. Potts, pastor of St. Ursula Church, Fountain Hill, has returned to ministry and will celebrate Masses at St. Ursula’s this weekend.

Potts had been accused last year of sexually abusing a minor in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The allegation was received by the Washington, D.C., administrators of the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, who then notified the diocese.

Bishop Alfred Schlert then removed Potts from ministry and directed that law enforcement be notified. The diocese had no knowledge of the complaint before being notified of it.

The person who made the allegation told the Compensation Fund Administrators that Potts sexually abused him in the 1980s and early 1990s, when Potts, now 83, was pastor of the former St. George Parish, Shenandoah.

The Office of the Schuylkill County District Attorney determined that the case would not be investigated because the Statute of Limitations had passed.

The diocese then hired independent investigators who pursued all possible leads in the case and determined that Potts did not commit the acts that were alleged.

The investigative firm, based outside the diocese, employs retired FBI agents who are trained investigators.

The Independent Review Board, a group of lay experts in abuse issues formed to review such cases, considered all of the facts in the case and recommended unanimously that Potts be reinstated. Bishop Schlert accepted the recommendation.

Potts served at Immaculate Conception in Jim Thorpe from 1964-1965; St. Joseph in Easton, 1965-1966; St. Vincent de Paul in Minersville, 1966-1967; St. Ann in Lansford, 1967-1969; Notre Dame in Bethlehem, 1969-1970; St. Vincent de Paul, Minersville, 1970-1978; St. Bernard, Easton, 1978-1979; Sacred Heart, New Philadelphia, 1979-1985; St. George, Shenandoah, 1985-2004; added to assignment, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Shenandoah, 1986-2004; added to assignment: St. Stephen, Shenandoah, 2001-2004; St. Mary, Ringtown and St. Joseph, Sheppton, 2004-2006; St. Ursula, Fountain Hill, 2006-present.

Anyone who knows of incidents of abuse should report it to the State ChildLine at 800-932-0313 or to local law enforcement. The Diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator is available to provide assistance to anyone who, as a minor, was abused by a priest, deacon, employee, or volunteer of the diocese, or of its parishes. Her direct line is 800-791-9209.