A Catholic priest at a church in Garrett Park has been placed on administrative leave following allegations that he sexually abused minors decades ago and before he was ordained.
The priest, a pastor of Holy Cross Catholic Church on Strathmore Avenue, is accused of sexually abusing minors before he was ordained in 1991, according to a statement from the Catholic Diocese of Arlington. The Arlington diocese learned of the allegations on Sept. 30 and reported it to Alexandria, Va., City police, the statement said.
The Washington Post reported earlier Wednesday that the priest had not been charged with a crime.
Marcel Bassett, an Alexandria police spokesperson, told Bethesda Beat that as of Wednesday afternoon no one had been charged in connection with the allegations.
“We are aware of the allegations and are investigating them at this time,” he said.
Authorities did not have information about the number of allegations that had been made.
The priest did not immediately respond to a message sent to his work email account Wednesday seeking comment. It was not clear whether he had retained an attorney.
Representatives from Holy Cross referred a Bethesda Beat reporter to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington.
The archdiocese has identified the priest by name. However, Bethesda Beat is not identifying him because he has not been charged with a crime.
In a letter dated Sept. 30 to the Holy Cross community, the Rev. Anthony Lickteig, vicar for clergy secretary for ministerial leadership of the archdiocese, wrote that the archdiocese had received information that [the priest] “has been accused of sexual abuse of minors that is reported to have occurred in another diocese decades ago, prior to his ordination to the priesthood.”
Lickteig wrote the allegations were first reported to the Arlington diocese, which then notified police and the Washington archdiocese.
Lickteig immediately placed the priest on administrative leave in compliance with the church’s Child Protection and Safe Environment Policy—guidance within the church that deals with the reporting, prevention and healing of minors who are being abused by priests.
“[The priest’s] priestly faculties have been suspended, and he is no longer at the rectory, pending a review of the allegations,” Lickteig wrote.
“Holy Cross Church and The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington take seriously our responsibility to protect children entrusted to our care. It is important that you be informed of the facts given the gravity of this matter and our deep commitment to the safety of our youth and the healing of those who have been harmed by abuse.”
Lickteig encouraged anyone with information about the priest to contact the Alexandria Police Department, Criminal Investigations Division, at 703-746-4444. Additionally, he encouraged anyone who suspects inappropriate behavior by someone in the archdiocese to call the Archdiocese’s Office of Child Protection & Safe Environment at 301-853-5302.
According to a statement Wednesday from the archdiocese, parents and staff of the Holy Cross parish and Holy Cross School were notified Friday evening of the allegations against the priest. The priest left his residence at the parish Friday, according to archdiocese spokeswoman Paula Grant.
The investigation into the allegations is being handled by law enforcement, according to the archdiocese.
“Our focus is on meeting the needs of our community, and we will be communicating further with the Holy Cross Catholic parish and school this week. When more information about the law enforcement investigation becomes available, we will be able to respond further,” the statement read.
The priest was appointed to his post at Holy Cross in 2015, according to an archived webpage from Holy Cross. His biography states that he was ordained in 1991 after studying at Blessed John XXIII Seminary in Weston, Mass. He has served in various houses of worship in Montgomery, Prince George’s and Charles counties, and completed 15 years of service in the Army as a Medical Service Corps officer, according to the website.
Dan Schere can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org