A homily delivered by Bishop Anthony Taylor of the Catholic Diocese of Little Rock and posted yesterday on the arkansas-catholic.org website says that a priest from Yell County has been permanently removed from ministry after admitting what Taylor called “multiple acts of sexual misconduct with multiple adult victims.” The post says Taylor delivered the homily in Russelville, Dardanelle and Danville on Sept. 27-28. You can read Taylor’s note on the incident here.
In the post, Taylor said that the diocese had received credible allegations of sexual misconduct against Father James Melnick the previous weekend. Melnick served at St. Augustine Catholic Church in Dardanelle and St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Danville. After learning of the allegations, Taylor said, the diocese stepped in to prevent him from celebrating mass in Danville that Sunday, then conducted interviews with several people in the parish.
Taylor writes: “We were able to interview some of his victims and verify multiple acts of sexual misconduct with multiple adult victims during the period of less than a year. Since there were multiple victims, we seem to be dealing with predatory behavior, not romance. Later Father Melnick admitted that this is true. So please do not blame his victims. They are victims. And moreover, they reported violations of the sacrament of reconciliation so serious as to require his permanent removal from ministry: absolution of persons with whom he had previously committed sins against the sixth commandment — and thus incurring grave canonical penalties that can only be lifted by the Holy See.”
Taylor apologized for Melnick’s conduct, saying the Catholic Church “would never allow a priest in [a] situation like this to ever function as a priest again.” He called on people to not let the incident shake their faith, and asked for prayers for the victims, the church and Melnick before announcing Melnick’s replacement, Father Mauricio Carrasco. In closing, he asked parishioners to contact the diocese if they or anyone they know has information about misconduct by Melnick.
A blog Melnick runs online says that he is a 2005 graduate of Holy Trinity Seminary at the University of Dallas, and a 2009 graduate of the Pontifical North American College.
We called the Danville Police Department and the Dardanelle Police Department, to see if they’d heard about the allegations against Melnick. Lt. Ken Jackson of Danville PD said that his department hadn’t heard anything about the incident, though he “knew of” Melnick as a local priest. A call to the Dardanelle PD hasn’t been returned yet.