Alaska News

A priest left California after he was accused of sexual misconduct involving a parishioner. Now he’s in Fairbanks.

Fairbanks: Fairbanks 04

A Catholic priest who faced allegations in a civil lawsuit that he engaged in a sexual relationship with a “vulnerable” adult parishioner is now working in Alaska.

The Rev. Gerardus Hauwert arrived in Alaska this summer to serve Catholic parishes in the Fairbanks area, Robert Fath, vicar general of the Diocese of Fairbanks, announced to parishioners in an email in July.

Hauwert is now a priest at Immaculate Conception Church, which describes itself as Interior Alaska’s oldest Catholic church.

In 2013, a former parishioner sued the Roman Catholic bishop of San Jose, California, and Hauwert, asserting the priest had preyed on her admission, in confession, that she had a sex addiction. Counseling involved sexual acts and a referral to a church-sanctioned exorcist, according to the lawsuit.

Ultimately, the Diocese of San Jose agreed to a financial settlement with the accuser and Hauwert remained a priest, transferred first to Greenland and then to a parish in the Canadian province of Ontario.

Hauwert was never criminally charged. He did not respond to an e-mail asking for comment for this story.

The Catholic Diocese of Fairbanks said it was aware of the allegations against Hauwert.

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“We reached out to the Diocese of San Jose and confirmed that at no time were his priestly faculties suspended and he remained a priest in good standing,” wrote Fath. “He has left each of his pastoral assignments as a priest in good standing in the respective dioceses he has served.”

Hauwert passed a criminal background check and “completed the annual safe environment training that is required to serve in this diocese,” Fath said.

The trouble began in 2011 when Hauwert was serving as a priest at Our Lady of Peace church in Santa Clara, Calif., and began counseling with the woman.

The woman alleged that in 2011 and 2012 the two had an inappropriate relationship that involved sexual acts, according to the lawsuit and an internal investigation undertaken by a private firm, Insight Group, at the behest of the Diocese of San Jose.

The woman was a “vulnerable adult,” her attorney Rob Mezzetti said.

In 2018, the San Jose Mercury News detailed the lawsuit against Hauwert in a story headlined “A priest, a sex addict and an exorcist: How a secret confession led to sex abuse claim against San Jose diocese.”

The article described the woman’s account of counseling sessions that involved a crucifix on her bare breast and a referral to a diocese-sanctioned exorcist. It also described the belief on the part of some fellow priests that the woman was the one who was harassing Hauwert, sending him hundreds of texts and photos.

The priest who specialized in exorcisms told an internal investigator that it was “public knowledge” the woman “regularly seduced men for sex through witchcraft,” the Mercury News reported.

In a phone conversation this week, Mezzetti said he’d been involved in more than 60 lawsuits against the Catholic Church. This one stood out because the victim was an adult, he said. The violation was of trust.

The episode unraveled her life, he said. The woman came from a large and deeply religious family and became alienated from the Catholic Church.

“It destroyed her faith,” he said. “She turned to him for help.”

Eventually, the Diocese of San Jose settled the case with the woman. The terms have never been disclosed, but they involved a payment to the accuser.

“But there certainly was a financial settlement,” said Mezzetti. “And we were very happy with it.”

Fath, of the Diocese of Fairbanks, said Hauwert “came to Fairbanks at the recommendation of his religious superiors” at all three of his assignments.


Michelle Theriault Boots

Michelle Theriault Boots is a reporter who covers news and features about life in Alaska, and has been focusing on corrections and psychiatric care issues in the state. Contact her at mtheriault@adn.com.

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