A Lake County Catholic priest has been placed on administrative leave from his church and law enforcement ministries pending an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse of an altar boy more than a decade ago, church and law authorities said Tuesday.
Father Ted Oswald was suspended Monday from his post at St. Mary Immaculate Church in Lakeport pending an investigation into the allegations, which were made in a civil lawsuit, said Santa Rosa Diocese spokeswoman Deirdre Frontczak.
The lawsuit, filed last month in Sonoma County Superior Court, alleges sexual misconduct involving a minor between 1988 and 1995, said Dan Galvin, attorney for the diocese.
Oswald has vigorously denied the allegations, which he revealed to his parishioners during his last Mass on Sunday. No one was answering the phone at St. Mary Immaculate Church on Tuesday evening, and diocese officials said they did not know where Oswald is staying.
Oswald has never before been accused of misconduct, Galvin said.
"We have no history, nothing in his background to indicate any prior problems, so this came as a complete shock and surprise to us," he said.
The lawsuit names both Oswald and the Santa Rosa Diocese as defendants.
Oswald also has taken a leave of absence from his positions as a chaplain with the Lakeport Police Department and Lake County Sheriff's Office, officials said.
The Lake County District Attorney's Office is investigating the complaint, said District Attorney Jon Hopkins.
Oswald has been a priest at St. Mary Immaculate Church for about 20 years, Galvin said.
Before that he served in Ukiah at St. Mary of the Angels Catholic Church.
Oswald attended St. Peters Chanel High School Seminary in San Rafael, St. Patrick College Seminary in Mountain View and Pontificio Collegio San Beda in Rome, where he earned a Master of Divinity in 1984.
Oswald previously had been a police officer for five years in South Carolina and served in the Army Military Police Corps from 1967 to 1970, including duty in Vietnam, according to a biography posted on the Lake County Sheriff's Web site.
Oswald is the 17th priest with the Santa Rosa Diocese to be accused of sexual abuse, Frontczak said.
The diocese has admitted to paying nearly $25 million to an undisclosed number of people who filed claims involving at least six priests.
The lawsuit filed against Oswald does not cite an amount in damages.