A Council Bluffs priest ordained fifteen years ago is suspended today from his duties at St Albert Catholic Schools. Ann Cox with the Des Moines Catholic Diocese says the action followed a protocol in place to handle any charges of priest abuse.

An allegation came in this week about sexual abuse of a minor involving Father Phillip Hopt. After the complaint was made, the diocese followed a policy it has in place and first contacted law enforcement, then the chair of the Diocesan Allegation Review Committee.

Based on those conversations and a written report of the allegation, Bishop Charron has placed Father Hopt on leave and for now, he cannot serve as a priest. Cox says so far the diocese has not determined whether Father Hopt if guilty or innocent, but has taken the measures spelled out in its policy designed to protect children.

"The bottom line is we have to act in the best interests, and to create a safe environment, for the children who are placed in our care." Cox says the role of the committee is going to be to look into the credibility of the allegation made against Father Hopt. "We really have a top-notch allegation-review committee," Cox says. It is chaired by a judge and includes a police detective, a child psychologist, and several other lay people who volunteer their time to help the diocese look at allegations like this.

The spokeswoman can’t say how long it might take to investigate the complaint received this week. The diocese encourages victims of sexual abuse by clergy and their families to report those allegations to law-enforcement authorities, and to contact the church’s victim-assistance advocate. She can provide them counseling resources, and also help them through the complaint process. That advocate is Jo Mulvihill, and anyone with questions can reach her at (515) 286 2031 or e-mail advocate-at-D-M-Diocese-dot-org. Hopt is 42 years old. He’s served at St. Albert Catholic Schools in Council Bluffs since 1995.