Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Fr. Vincent Panepinto Suspended Following Sexual Abuse Allegation

March 27th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

Fr. Vincent Panepinto

Fr. Vincent Panepinto (“Fr. Vinny”), a priest  serving as  Sacramental Minister in the Northeast Rochester parish of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, has been suspended by Bishop Matthew Clark following an allegation of sexual abuse. The abuse allegation is from the late 1960s, according to the Diocese of Rochester press release. Fr. Panepinto has served in a number of assignments including St. Philip Neri, St. Anthony (Elmira), St. Michael (Rochester), and various prison ministries.  Father also oversaw the consolidation of Corpus Christi/St. Francis Xavier/Our Lady of Mt. Carmel a few years ago into  “Our Lady of the Americas.”  Being near 70, he is close to retirement.

I am familiar with Fr. Panepinto. Though I would probably classify him as a somewhat progressive priest, it has been my impression that he has a jovial personality and that he is loved and respected by his parishioners. Fr. Panepinto is bilingual and has ministered to the Spanish-speaking Catholics of this diocese for several years. It is going to be interesting to see how the diocese replaces him, since we have so few Spanish-speaking priests and this parish needs two of them.

As was the case when Fr. Shaw was accused, I beg our readers to demonstrate decency in the comment box and to offer their prayers for Fr. Panepinto and the alleged victim. If he is innocent, may he return to ministry with a clean name. If he is guilty, may the victim receive peace and justice for their suffering.

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36 Responses to “Fr. Vincent Panepinto Suspended Following Sexual Abuse Allegation”

  1. Chris says:

    The entire parish was shocked to hear the sad news at the end of Mass. I’d have to agree that he is loved and respected by the people of Our Lady of the Americas. The main questions that ran through the minds of many people were: Why now after so many years and Could there be a motivation of greed? We will pray for Fr. Vinny and the person who made the allegation. And let’s keep all of our priests in prayer. They need our prayers now more than ever!

  2. militia says:

    How sad. It seems to me that priests should only be removed for major crime allegations (like abuse of a minor) and not for sin allegations like the accusations against Fr. Corapi right now. I pray for all of them, and that truth comes out and healing takes place. But if we start removing priests for sins (not crimes) we won’t have any priests left, and the devil will be over-joyed. And it certainly is a poor witness to the power of repentance and confession.

    Also, I have a question maybe someone more informed than I can answer. Somewhere in the back of my mind I thought I had heard that if someone physically strikes a priest that there is an automatic excommunication. (?) Since damage to reputation can be even more hurtful than a physical attack, why aren’t those who make false allegations against a priest receiving a similar punishment to what would be meted out for a physical attack?

  3. Matt says:

    We don’t use that awful e-word anymore. It’s not nice. Jesus forgave. Turn the other cheek…so on and so forth. Carry the gear 2 miles…so on and so forth. Of course, when you take Our Lord’s remarks out of historical context, you get Jesus the nonviolence activist. Instead, these were challenges. Roman soldiers could, by law, require someone to carry his gear up to a mile, but further than that was illegal. Picture the Roman soldier chasing after the Christian carrying his gear, begging for him to stop carrying it! A forehand smark you as an equal. A little Roman culture goes a long way. My other pet lap marked someone as your lesser, while a backhand marked someone as your equal. If you were to “turn the other cheek,” you would be challenging the slapper to peeve: the parable of the talents. A talent is a unit of money, not something you’re good at. Every time I hear a well-meaning priest screw up the point of these things, I’m annoyed to no end that seminaries don’t feel the need to say, “this is key to understanding what Jesus said.”

    The point of my rant is this. Don’t expect most bishops to come to the defense of wrongly accused priests. I’m not saying Fr Panepinto was rightly or wrongly accused, but outside of Bishop Bruskewitz, each and every US Bishop has taken to treating his priests like criminals. It’s a shame.

  4. Matt says:

    So, don’t expect to hear that awful, evil, no good, very bad e-word. A loving God wouldn’t like a bunch of meanies in silly hats to throw somebody out just because they were complicit with evil in a real and meaningful way.

  5. Dr. K says:

    According to the DoR, it was the late 60s.

  6. Mike says:

    According to the Official Catholic Directory Fr. Panepinto was ordained in 1967.

  7. Tom says:

    I am Vinny’s best friend living in Houston, TX and a former seminarian from 1980. He was my spiritual director for years and my friend for many more. We know each other like brothers. Vinny is innocent of this because I KNOW Vinny.

  8. Dr. K says:

    Thank you for posting, Tom. There is a good chance that Father will see your message. He is in my prayers.

  9. militia says:

    The exact words from the DoR website:

    Statement on Rev. Vincent Panepinto

    March 27, 2011

    An allegation of sexual abuse of a minor dating back to the late 1960s has been made against Rev. Vincent Panepinto and deemed credible after an investigation by the Diocese of Rochester.

    Rev. Panepinto has been placed on administrative leave and his priestly faculties have been withdrawn. He can no longer exercise public ministry in any capacity.

    Rev. Panepinto was ordained a priest on June 3, 1967. He served at the former St. Philip Neri parish in Rochester and St. Anthony’s in Elmira; St. Michael’s in Rochester; as a chaplain at several state correctional facilities and at Our Lady of Mercy High School; as spiritual director at Becket Hall discernment house; as pastor of the former City East parishes in Rochester (Corpus Christi, Holy Redeemer, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel); and most recently as sacramental minister of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini parish in Rochester.

  10. TomS says:

    I served Mass for Fr. Panepinto at St. Anthony’s in Elmira in the ’70s and have never had any problems with him. It is odd that someone waited so long to bring these accusations. I will pray for all concerned.

  11. anonymous says:

    I find it hard to believe? What’s the question here? The diocese has done an investigation and removed him because of credible evidence. End of story. They don’t just go off half cocked and remove someone because they heard it through the grapevine.
    As for waiting 50 years, some people bury this trauma for their whole lives never knowing who they can trust or where they can go for help, because of guilt, shame and mistrust of the people they turned to for guidance and spirituality.
    We must remember here that this was a minor, A child of God !!!

  12. As for waiting 50 years, some people bury this trauma for their whole lives never knowing …

    Someone has been watching too many cop shows on TV.

    We must remember here that this was a minor, A child of God !!!

    We must remember that a priest’s reputation has been stained forever.

  13. Mary says:

    I am in shock. He buried my mother(4 years ago) with such grace and dignity at Our Lady of the Americas(Corpus Christi) that I cry when I think of this. We are all children of God and I pray for Fr. Vinny and the whole parish community.

  14. Eliza10 says:

    Anonymous 8:27 wrote:” “I find it hard to believe? What’s the question here? The diocese has done an investigation and removed him because of credible evidence. End of story. They don’t just go off half cocked and remove someone because they heard it through the grapevine.”

    The anonymous commenter has a lo of faith the DOR operations, and appears to a proponent of the new policy for accused priests: “Gulity until proven innocent”. What a policy in a time like ours where dishonesty and greed is so entrenched in our culture. If “Anonymous” is ever falsely accused, he/she will havde a new view of that.

    Anonymous, we have no way of knowing if the allegations are indications of a true crime or a false accusations against an innocent man. Either way this is very, very grave.

    “As for waiting 50 years, some people bury this trauma for their whole lives never knowing who they can trust or where they can go for help, because of guilt, shame and mistrust of the people they turned to for guidance and spirituality.
    We must remember here that this was a minor, A child of God !!!”

    Anonymous, we don’t know if the accuser is telling the truth or lying. Yes, if it is in fact the truth, then 50 years later the effects of trauma are still there and are still valid complaint. But consider the trauma of an innocent man falsely accused. That’s trauma, too! The grave wrong of falsely accusing an innocent man does not do anything to mitigate the wrong of others who in other instances were in fact abused. That’s a twisted justice.

  15. RochChaCha says:

    If someone, especially an adult or in this case, someone who is at least 50 years old, brings forth charges against a priest, does the diocese not publicly identify the person bringing charges? In all fairness, if the priest is going to get his image smeared in the press, why would the adult accuser not be required to be made public?

  16. Dr. K says:

    “He will be remembered in my daily Holy Mass. Message from Borneo Island.”

    Thank you for offering your prayers, Father.

  17. Dr. K says:

    What’s terrible about this situation is that Fr. Vinny doesn’t have any reasonable chance to defend himself. This is a he said/she said incident that dates back to the 1960s! How can Father be expected to furnish any proof from so long ago? How can he locate witnesses to defend him, and who has a memory so good that they can recall where they were 40 years ago? I can’t even remember what’s on my grocery list when I forget to bring it with me to Wegmans! Father is in a no-win situation. He has been found guilty by the diocese and can’t easily prove his innocence. It looks like his life as an active priest is over unless the alleged victim admits that the story was fabricated.

    This is sad, and it’s going to continue to happen repeatedly against priests in the United States. Remember the post I did on the “Witch Hunt” about a week ago. All a person has to do to take down a priest they don’t like is cry out “He abused me!” and the man is suspended… often for life. This needs to change.

  18. First of all, I agree that we should all pray for everyone involved, the victim or victims, Fr. Panepinto, the Diocese of Rochester, and all parishioners of St. Francis Xavier Cabrini Parish, -all of us.
    Fr. Panepinto had been coming to celebrate the 9:30 A.M. mass at St. Andrew Church on a fairly regular basis, after the two priest ministry team was named for St. Francis Xavier Cabrini Parish. Last Sunday’s homily by Fr. Panepinto was quite peculiar and after this Sunday’s revelation by Deb Housel, parishioners in general, stated that it shed light on last Sunday’s homily. Fr. Panepinto was illustrating the lives of Saint Patrick and St. Joseph. He stated that there were scholars who don’t think that St. Patrick was ever made bishop, but preached to the pagans of Ireland as a priest. He asked, “do you know why he never was made bishop?” He said he was up for becoming bishop, but before he went to Ireland, he wanted to confess a serious sexual sin to a priest. He stated that that priest “went and blabbed” his serious sexual sin all around so he was prevented from becoming bishop. Fr. Panepinto stated then, and continuouly throughout his homily, “serious sexual sin, so what?!” and “90% of all the young men in this congegration are guilty of serious sexual sin,so what?” He stated that St.Patrick went on to convert Ireland to Christianity. He briefly interjected that he believed St. Patrick’s serious sexual sin was adultery. Fr. Panepinto then St. Joseph was not important because he never touched Mary. He then stated that St. Joseph talked with pagans, which was looked down on in his time. He then asked where do you suppose Jesus got the idea of hanging out with various sinners and tax collecters? Fr. Panepinto came back to estimate that “90% of all the young men in the congregation were guilty of serious sexual sin,” then added that he estimated that “90% of all the older men in the congregation were guilty of serious sexual sin.” Fr. Panepinto made comments to relay that it didn’t matter and it was trivial in regard to carrying out God’s mission. He kept repeating that message and pretty much ended his homily with the line, “serious sexual sin, so what?!”
    I thought it was odd at the time,(so did others), and I wondered if it was an appeal to encourage men to the priesthood. In retrospect, I, (and others), have a different perspective.
    I am still saddened and trying to cope with this difficult news. May God help all of us.

  19. Dr. K says:

    “serious sexual sin, so what?!”

    Not a good message at all. “Serious sexual sin” requires a serious Confession.

    I can see how his homily could be interpreted in light of what happened this weekend. When we sin, many of us try to justify our sins by telling ourselves “everybody is doing it” or “what I did is not as bad as what Joe Blow down the street did.” Sometimes, we try to convince ourselves that a sinful act is not really wrong. Think of Archbishop Weakland and his passionate defense of homosexual acts. There was a reason why that bishop tried so hard to cleanse homosexuality of sinfulness and bring it into acceptability (I think we know that reason today after his scandal came to light). There is a reason why some priests in this diocese attempt to legitimatize homosexual acts through the broad umbrella of “accepting homosexuals.”

  20. annonymouse says:

    When the abuse scandal hit a few years ago, I could see some logic in not having some sort of “statute of limitations” on allegations. But that was a few years ago. Is it really credible that someone would NOW bring allegations of abuse, abuse that is said to have happened more than 40 years ago? I think not. There ought to be a statute of limitations applied in the decision of what allegations are truly “credible.”

    I understand the bishop’s desire to protect his flock from bad priests, but this is getting ridiculous. Who would want to be a priest in this diocese?

  21. Dr.K-I agree, “serious sexual sin, so what?!” is not a good message at all. One person told me that they thought it was a horrible message to relay to male youth, particularly teenage males, looking for a moral compass in the church. I agree with that person and I also agree with another person who thought the statements were insulting and disrespectful of the men in the congregation.

    Serious sexual sin-Serious sexual sin should not be taken lightly! It involves self-examination of the conscience,confession, true repentance, with the intent to not commit the offense again. It may require profession therapy in some instances.

    And while all serious sexual sin is a sin, there certainly is a difference between sexual encounters between two consenting adults and sexual encounters with children or with an unconsenting adult. (ie.Misguided sexual encounter vs. Rape). If there is a message given, it should be that there are rules in the church because of certain consequences that can happen when sexual encounters occur outside of a committed relationship – marriage. The idea is to have enough respect and love for a person to only have sexual relations within the sacred bonds of marriage. The message should be – Think about others feelings, not just your own. The pain which can occur from uncommitted sexual relations outside of Holy Matrimony and true love can be long-lasting.

  22. anomymous says:

    Is there no such thing as forgiveness in the Catholic Church anymore? Is there no such thing as redemption? Even if this was true, it looks like this priest spent a lifetime as a good priest. Does this not count for anything? He has basically been destroyed by the church he has served faithfully all these years. Why is the accuser not named ? It has been 40 years, yes, maybe something did happen, the accuser has to be at least 50 by now, grow up and get over it. Why can’t the diocese ask Fr. Vinny to take an early retirement and leave it at that, why broadcast his name to the community. It all comes down to money. Who would want to be a priest or work in the church? You are a target of anyone, anywhere ! The church is being destroyed from within.

  23. Dr. K says:

    it looks like this priest spent a lifetime as a good priest

    Very good point. Father provided 40 years of service since the alleged incident took place. As far as we know, there have been no reports of other incidents since then.

  24. nus says:

    I was a very active teen with the St. Philip Neri Youth Group from 1967-1969 when Fr. Vinny first came to the parish. He was awesome. He energized the youth group and encouraged our participation in both spiritual and social aspects of parish life. We were a very close group. We had experienced a terrible loss with the horrible fire that destroyed our church and killed our pastor Fr.Wymann and a beloved teacher, Sr.Lillian Marie. We were happy to embrace such a vibrant and faithful new priest. Fr. Vinny was part of our family and we felt part of his; knowing his parents and sister. There was no incling of impropriety EVER. My friendship w/ him continued and he presided @ our wedding in 1971. When he was @ St.Anthony’s in Elmira, many of us went to help his parish after the big flood. I saw him infrequently but remember visiting him @ St.Michaels when he helped develop and nurture the hispanic community. In 1999, when he was chaplain @ Willard Correctional Facility, he returned to St.Philip to officiate @ the marriage of our daughter.
    He is a very special priest and man. He encouraged and nurtured my spiritual growth as well as many of my friends and relatives who loved him back in 1967!!!
    May God keep him close and may his accuser find peace and truth with Gods help. This has impacted me greatly coming on the heals of accusations against another dear friend; Dennis Shaw!
    My prayers go out to both of them and their respective accusers who, to this date only number one each. I work w/ sex offender and in my experience, preditors usually have more than one victim. It has been 3mos and Fr.Dennis has had no more to my knowledge!! This is a very sad scenario for our church and our society as well.

  25. Really says:

    I find it amazing that a few giving their opinions on this matter see themselves as righteous. If you are not God, Fr Vinny, the Bishop or the alleged victim, you know nothing of the actual truth in this matter and should consider your motive of your posts.
    I have been in the presence of many homilies from numerous Priests in my life and often perceived a message from a Homily that could not have been farther from the truth. I would always take the time to question the Priest regarding the Homily and if I was receiving what was being sent. So if you were taken back by a particular Homily from Fr Panepinto, why not ask for clearification or perhaps it was easier to make him a scapecoat for DOR reorganization and cuts

  26. Deliberator says:

    Matthew 18
    2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them.
    3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children,
    you will never enter the kingdom of heaven…
    6 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

    This passage of Jesus’ words clearly states the severity and punishment of “abuse of a minor”. How can anyone put a time frame on such damage? So the priest did 40 years of good; what of the 40 years and more of suffering and impairment lived by the victim— a minor? How can anyone ask for the name of the victim, whose person has been victimized all these decades? Where is your compassion? A man who has been trained, educated, and blessed into the priesthood is in a far superior position of authority, control, and responsibility than any minor child. “Credible evidence of sex-abuse” is strong language, and I do not believe it is used without firm conviction that it may well be true.

  27. anomymous says:

    I believe in scripture Jesus said something to the effect – you’re sins are forgiven, go and do not sin anymore.
    I was a very different person when I was in my early twenties. To know me now, no one would even guess the sins of my past. After a kick in the pants by the Holy Spirit, I have spent my life helping others and serving God. And yes, I was abused as a child and yes, I have scars from it, but, I have forgiven and moved on. And I use the scars I have to recognize hurts in others and I use those scars to heal. I believe the term is “wounded warriors”. We are all wounded- Fr. Vinny and the victim. It is what we do with the hurt that can bring forth the grace of God to help others.

  28. To Really: I have often taken time, through the years, privately, to applaud a priest on their homily or question them if their comments seemed inappropriate and/or give them input as to how their homily came across-additionally, I have told them that I would pray for them in this regard.
    My dilemma now-currently, is that I have not been able to applaud a priest on an especially spiritual awesome homily and question on the isolated occasion that I question the comments or message that was spoken. Fr. Panepinto, like many other priests in the Diocese, has had to leave directly after one mass to go to the next mass-constantly on the run. FYI, I was able to catch Fr. Panepinto one Sunday before he took off to complement him on his homily which I thought was very good. In regard to the Sunday of March 20th, Fr. Panepinto left directly from mass to bless the St. Joseph’s Table and then had to depart for his next mass.

  29. good catholic woman says:

    Why wouldn’t accusations made 40 years later be credible? So a woman would not be able to accuse her rapist after 40 years? Or a man not be able to accuse a mother or father who physically abused him? What, our memories get skewed after so many years?Thirty-five years ago, among a group of people I was in the presence of a Religious Brother who couldn’t keep his hands off me. At 20 years old, I was very disturbed by this…and yet, because he couched it in “playfulness”, not even the adults present were alarmed. It has only been in recent years that I have seen those actions for what they were. If given the opportunity I would tell him in no uncertain terms what he did. But I would not want my name splashed over the news.
    Why would the public need to know the identity of the accuser. Fr. Vinny has been told. That’s a;; that counts. He has been faced with the accusation and there have been no vehement denials forthcoming. Can a good priest slip? yes. Could a good priest do something that he may interpret as “affectionate” yet a youth see as inappropriate? Could he have had too much to drink? Sure. No matter how much we may think we “know” our friends, that doesn’t mean we know everything.

  30. Anonymouus says:

    I agree with the comment, “No matter how much we may think we “know” our friends, that doesn’t mean we know everything.” from good catholic woman. My husband and I had a very good family friend who we thought we knew well. He was my husband’s best friend. My husband met him years before we were married, at a job were they both worked, while my husband was in college. My husband had social interactions with him outside of work. This best friend was asked to be in our wedding. Afterward, this best friend became a family friend and was invited to dinner on a regular basis and visited at holiday time for years. He brought gifts at holiday time and at the birth of our sons. Our sons came to know him because he visited on a regular basis and went out with my husband and them to dinner, a movie, or another activity, such as swimming while I was at work.

    I did not know my husband had this best friend watching the boys for him on various occasions, while he stayed home or went somewhere else, while I was at work. This best friend took my sons out to places for events or activities, took them to his place, or spent time with them at our place. I had a strange feeling one time and used my key to open up our door instead of knocking to be let in when this best friend was with our sons and I was coming home very early from an appointment. This best friend tried to throw his camera in his bag quickly as I caught him off guard outside of the bathroom door where my younger son was taking a shower. This best friend had my youngest son pose in different poses naked in the shower while he shot pictures of him. He appeared dazed and not functioning when I got to him. I covered him and helped him dress in his bedroom and tried to get out of the house away from this best friend, who began acting crazed and angry at me for being a bad mother because he thought this son should have weighed more.
    The police botched the investigation -although the crime was reported immediately, they waited over a week to do anything, allowed the best friend to destroy evidence -expose the film – and then there were too many cases of actual sexual abuse as in rape of a minor that the court would not try endangering the welfare of a minor. My youngest son was put through extensive drilling by police for nothing. It was devastating for him (and for us). The police told us that they confiscated tons of pornographic materials from his place (without a search warrant) and this best friend got a good lawyer. The son involved went for counseling and we tried our best to support him. We changed the locks on our doors and gave schools and church programs his description, and that he should never be allowed contact with our children. We severed our relations abruptly after years of friendship. We all felt betrayed.
    Recently, we just saw his name on the local and state database for sex offenders. He had sexually assaulted an 11 year old boy and spent time in prison and probation and was back in the community. I could not believe the little jail time he received for such a terrible crime. I wondered how many other victims he had that were either botched cases by police or courts or who had not come forward. We thought we knew this best friend.

  31. Really says:

    If these accusations are true; what part of father’s long ministry is valid. Were his Baptisms, Confessions and Celebrations of the Mass valid ? I was /am a member of the Corpus Christi parish and feel betrayed every Mass I’ve attended with father v.p. I confessed my sins along with the others in attendance and prayed for to the Heavenly Father through father v.p. who must have been in sin himself. being a Catholic who attended 9 years of Catholic schools attending Mass monday thru friday and sundays for 8 of those years, am having a hard time understanding what his thoughts are/were. I understand the need for forgiveness but the victim of this crazyness is not limited to the individual or individuals sexually involved. I’m a victim, Catholics are victims, other Priests are victims, his friends and families are victims

  32. Really says:

    Now that’s scarey

  33. Abaccio says:

    Actually, it’s not scary at all…it’s very calming. Imagine always having to wonder if the sacrament worked, wondering if the priest was in a state of grace…

  34. Dr. K says:

    The Sacraments he administered were valid.

  35. Really says:

    Thanks to all for your direct replies; they’re appreciated. Being too close to the situation is causing alot of thought. I really do not know where my Faith goes from here. Some things had gone on at CC that I felt should have been handled differently and with this/these accusations that have been made, make the non actions by Father morally suspect. What was allowed to go on by Father, caused some to leave the parish. I will never share what was allowed to happen and by who, but I am not the only person that has knowledge of what took place

  36. Eliza10 says:

    If it turns out that Father is guilty of the accused serious sexual sin, its a serious problem if his homily is a reflection on his attitude toward that – and its quite a stretch to imagine he was not expressing his own viewpoints.

    However I feel that Fr.P is a “victim” of the pervasive DOR doctrine, under Bishop Clark: that what the Church calls “serious sexual sin” is not really a big deal. How shocking it must be for Father P. to try to see it another way, after ALL THESE YEARS of so MUCH validation that these matters just don’t matter! Therefore, Fr. P can’t really be blamed, not entirely, for that gravely erring homily message. A great bulk of blame for that homily lies right here, at the DOR.

    But whether this accusation is true or false, if that’s how Fr.P. feels about sexual sin, its a GREAT GRACE to end his vocation in this terrible, terrible way, if this is what it takes for him to understand that serious sexual sin is very serious. When he leaves earth, he will surely feel that no price was too high to have learned that.

    We all have something that we just have a hard time learning, and maybe God has to teach us the hard way because we just don’t get it, or don’t want to get it. Meantime, other people “get” the thing with no problem.

    Anonymous 5:36, what a sad story. And if the person making the accusation of Fr.P. is telling the truth, I am sure that that is a sad, sad story too.

    May our Blessed Mother keep Fr. P. under her mantle of protection and may she, the Loving Mother and Seat of Wisdom, guide him to true Peace in her Son.

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