Fr. Edmund Penisten arrived at St. Gregory church in October, after eight years in Ketchikan. Diocesan officials were alerted to a possible problem about two weeks ago.
“A computer program that had been installed on the computers at St. Gregory’s indicated that some questionable material had been accessed,” said the Rev. Pat Travers, vicar general of the Diocese of Juneau.
Travers said Bishop Edward Burns immediately asked Penisten to step aside and contacted police. Travers also said he doesn’t know what the questionable material on the computers consisted of.
Sitka Police Lieutenant Barry Allen says computers from the church were sent to Anchorage for analysis. The results of those tests are still pending. No charges have been filed.
The next step, according to Travers, is to find out what authorities discover on the computers and assess the possible consequences.
“In the meantime,” he said, “Father Peniston won’t be in public ministry, and at some point there will probably be an assessment of where he is psychologically and pastorally.”
Bishop Burns led the Mass in Sitka last weekend and held a town hall meeting for parishioners on Saturday night. Travers says those in attendance had lots of questions.
“It sounds like they were concerned but at the same time, seemed to give him the feedback that they were confident about the way he was handling things,” he said.
Charles Horan is on the Parish Council at St. Gregory. He said members of the congregation are “very grieved” by recent events.
The Bishop is expected to return to Sitka this weekend and lead Masses.
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