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4 Pedophile Priests Being Investigated
P.G. Police Plan to Contact Victims

By Debbi Wilgoren
Washington Post
February 9, 1995

Prince George's County police say they have begun an investigation of four Roman Catholic priests who admitted to the archdiocese last month that they molested an altar boy at a Lanham parish in the 1970s.

Detectives spoke late Tuesday with a lawyer for the victim, now a 34-year-old resident of the Baltimore area, and plan to interview him soon, police spokesman Al Gibson said yesterday.

From left, the Revs. Edward Hartel, Edward B. Pritchard, Thomas S. Schaefer and Alphonsus Smith say they molested a boy at a Lanham parish in the 1970s.

Police officers also are trying to contact another victim, from a Takoma Park parish, whom the Archdiocese of Washington has said was molested by one of the four priests from 1988 to 1993.

"We're going to look into any allegations that we've been made aware of," Gibson said. "During the course of the investigation, if there are potential other victims, our investigators will pursue" those leads.

The archdiocese announced this weekend that the four priests had admitted engaging in sex acts with a former altar boy at St. Matthias Roman Catholic Church, in Lanham. The victim reported the abuse to the archdiocese in January after discussing it with his therapist.

The priests were identified as the Rev. Thomas S. Schaefer, 69, chaplain at Carroll Manor nursing home in Hyattsville since 1986; the Rev. Alphonsus Smith, 70, pastor at St. Bernardine of Siena Roman Catholic Church in Suitland since 1989; the Rev. Edward B. Pritchard, 50, associate pastor at St. Mary Mother of God Roman Catholic Church in Northwest Washington since 1994; and the Rev. Edward Hartel, 58, pastor at the Shrine of St. Jude in Rockville since 1990.

When confronted by the archdiocese, Smith said he also had abused a youth from Our Lady of Sorrows church in Takoma Park from 1988 to 1993, church officials said. Smith was assigned to that parish from 1982 to 1989, according to archdiocesan directories.

All four priests were stripped of their religious authority and sent for treatment at separate, undisclosed locations, according to church officials. The archdiocese said this week that Schaefer and Pritchard were treated for pedophilia in the past.

An advocate for victims of sexual abuse by members of the clergy said yesterday that it is extremely rare for such cases to be criminally investigated or prosecuted decades after they occur.

Victims often are reluctant to go public, because they are embarrassed or don't want to be disloyal to the church, said Thomas Economus, executive director of the Chicago-based group called Survivors of Clergy Sexual Abuse Linkup.

In other cases, he said, prosecution is impossible because the statute of limitations for pedophilia charges has expired. Maryland has no statute of limitations for sexual child abuse, a felony.

The most well-known recent case in which a priest was prosecuted for abuse that occurred years earlier was in Massachusetts, Economus said. The Rev. James R. Porter was sentenced in 1993 to 18 years in prison for molesting 28 children in the 1960s.

Locally, two former priests were prosecuted on relatively recent charges of abuse. Thomas Chebloski Jr. pleaded guilty in 1991 to molesting a series of youths he supervised from 1985 to 1990 in Montgomery County, Arlington and the District.

In Prince George's County, Peter M. McCutcheon pleaded guilty in 1986 to sexually abusing three teenage boys from 1981 to 1985. None of the youths was in parishes where he had worked.

 
 

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