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Originally published February 16, 2010 at 1:09 PM | Page modified February 16, 2010 at 5:01 PM

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Vatican removes local priest from active ministry; allegations involved minor

The Vatican has barred from active ministry the Rev. Dennis Kemp, former pastor of St. Monica Roman Catholic Church on Mercer Island.

Seattle Times staff reporter

The Vatican has permanently barred from active ministry the Rev. Dennis Kemp, former pastor of St. Monica Roman Catholic Church on Mercer Island.

Kemp was placed on administrative leave in 2007 after allegations of inappropriate conduct with a minor.

After the archdiocese received the allegation, it notified the Mercer Island Police Department, which investigated and turned the case over to the King County Prosecutor's office. The prosecutor decided no criminal charges could be filed because of insufficient evidence.

In a letter to St. Monica parshioners, Seattle Archbishop Alex Brunett said that while the prosecutor's office "did not feel the situation was prosecutable from a criminal perspective, they did express strong concerns about the seriously inappropriate behaviors of Father Kemp toward the minors involved."

Kemp's case was reviewed by the archdiocese's review board, which unanimously recommended that he be barred from active ministry. The Vatican concurred.

Kemp appealed that decision, Brunett's letter said, but a Vatican body upheld it.

Kemp, 63, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Being permanently barred from ministry is a step short of defrocking, and means Kemp cannot call himself "father," wear priestly garb or present himself as a priest.

Brunett's letter did not specify what the inappropriate conduct involved but a spokeswoman with the Mercer Island Police Department said earlier that it involved physical contact with a 12-year-old boy at the church that did not constitute a criminal violation, but could be characterized as inappropriate.

Kemp had served as pastor at St. Monica from 2002 to 2007. He also has served at St. Mark Church in Shoreline and at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in Bremerton, and as a campus minister and teacher at Kennedy High School in Burien.

Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 or jtu@seattletimes.com

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