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Four Priests Indicted on Sex Charges
PG grand jury cites nine abused boys

By John Mercurio
Washington Times
March 15, 1995

A Prince George's County grand jury yesterday indicted four Roman Catholic priests on charges of sexually abusing nine boys at churches since 1972, including four youths not previously linked to the cases in public.

The priests, who until recently remained assigned to area parishes, face a total of 12 indictments, marking the first time in the nation so many Catholic priests are set to stand trial on sex-abuse charges at one time, according to a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Washington.

The priests are the Rev. Thomas Schaefer, 69, former chaplain at Carroll Manor nursing home in Hyattsville; the Rev. Alphonsus Smith, 70, former pastor at St. Bernadine of Sienna Roman Catholic Church in Suitland; the Rev. Edward Pritchard, 50, former associate pastor at St. Mary Mother of God Roman Catholic Church in Washington; and the Rev. Edward Hartel, 58, former pastor at the Shrine of St. Jude in Rockville.

The archdiocese announced last month that the four priests had admitted engaging in sex acts with an altar boy at St. Matthias Roman Catholic Church in Lanham during the 1970s and 1980s.

Advocates for victims of sexual abuse by clergymen said it is extremely rare for such cases to be criminally investigated, much less prosecuted, decades after they occur. But Prince George's County State's Attorney Jack Johnson told reporters Maryland is one of the few states where 20-year-old incidents can be prosecuted because sexual abuse does not have a statute of limitations.

Mr. Johnson said the priests will likely be arraigned within two weeks, and each case should be set for trial early this summer.

Dawn Weyrich Ceol, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, declined to comment on Mr. Johnson's announcement, saying it would be inappropriate for the church to discuss the county's judicial proceedings.

Father Schaefer, who faced child-abuse allegations in the 1960s, was charged yesterday in four indictments with engaging in sex acts with four boys at churches between 1972 and 1982.

The archdiocese has said he was treated for pedophilia.

Father Schaefer, described by a police source as the group's "ringleader," was charged with abusing one altar boy from age 11 to age 15 at St. Matthias. The victim is now 34 and lives in the Baltimore area.

The priest is charged with abusing another boy between ages 16 and 18 in the early 1970s at the same church, a boy ages 12 to 13 in the late 1970s, and a 14-year-old in the early 1980s at St. John's Catholic Church in Clinton.

Father Smith is charged in four indictments with abusing four boys between 1974 and 1987: the altar boy and another boy from age 12 to 13 at St. Matthias during the late 1970s; a boy ages 14 to 16 during the mid-1970s at St. John's; and a boy from age 11 to age 17 in the 1980s at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in Takoma Park.

Father Smith has admitted the abuse at Our Lady of Sorrows, which began shortly after he was assigned to the parish in 1982.

Father Pritchard is charged in three indictments with abusing three boys during the mid-1970s. Aside from engaging in sex acts with the altar boy at St. Matthias, he was charged with abusing an 11-year-old boy in 1976 and an 11-year-old boy in the mid-1970s at the church.

Father Hartel is charged in one indictment with sexual offenses against the altar boy at St. Matthias during the late 1970s.

Each count of sexual child abuse carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. In addition, each count of sodomy that state police charged Father Schaefer with carries a 20-year sentence.

The indictments include four victims whose claims had not been disclosed. Prosecutor Beverly Woodard said her office has not received other claims of abuse.

But Thomas Economus, director of the Chicago-based Survivors of Clergy Sexual Abuse Linkup, said his group has received more than 40 calls since the priests' arrests from people claiming they were abused by one or more of the four.

PRIESTS INDICTED

A Prince George's County grand jury yesterday indicted four priests accused of molesting youths in their parishes.

THE REV. THOMAS S. SCHAEFER: Charged in four separate indictments for abusing four minors in the 1970s and early '80s. Father Schaefer allegedly committed acts at St. Matthias Catholic Church in Lanham and St. John's Catholic Church in Clinton.

THE REV. ALPHONSUS SMITH: Charged in four indictments for abusing four youths from 1974 to 1987. Father Smith allegedly abused boys at St. Matthias, Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in Takoma Park and St. John's.

THE REV. EDWARD B. PRITCHARD: Charged in three indictments with engaging in sex acts with three boys in the mid-1970s. Father Pritchard allegedly abused the youths at St. Matthias.

THE REV. EDWARD HARTEL: Charged in one indictment with abusing a boy during the late 1970s at St. Matthias Catholic Church.

 
 

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