CHARLESTON— Father Javier Heredia has been cleared of charges of sexual misconduct with a minor and will return to active ministry, the Diocese of Charleston announced in a press release Sept. 4.
Father Heredia was on administrative leave for two years.
“We welcome Father Heredia back to ministry,” the diocese stated.
The decision was made after civil authorities dropped all criminal charges against Father Heredia and the Diocese of Charleston’s Sexual Abuse Advisory Board concluded that the allegation made against him was not credible. The voting members of the board are laypeople and one priest.
In July 2018, Father Heredia was arrested following an accusation of inappropriate contact outside the clothing of a minor female while in a public wave pool. Father Heredia adamantly denied the accusation; however, he was removed from active ministry pending the outcome of the case.
The prosecutor in the criminal case dropped all charges against him in February 2020. Upon the conclusion of the criminal proceedings, the diocesan Sexual Abuse Advisory Board determined the accusation to be unfounded. The board considered information obtained from the criminal investigation plus the results of a second investigation by outside private investigators, the diocese announced.
While on administrative leave, Father Heredia was not allowed to function as a priest, wear clerical clothing, be on either of the two church campuses or participate in any of the parishes’ activities pending the outcome of the investigation.
Father Heredia was formerly assigned as administrator at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Lancaster and St. Michael Mission in Great Falls. The diocese of Charleston stated it will announce his next assignment soon.
Anyone with information about possible sexual abuse with minors by Church personnel is asked to notify civil authorities in their area. If you need assistance, please contact Louisa Storen, victim assistance coordinator for the diocese, at 800-921-8122. She can support anyone with reporting and provide professional counseling to the victim, if appropriate.