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  Theologian Resigns over Sex Allegation

Philadelphia Inquirer [Pennsylvania]
July 13, 2003

The chairman of Villanova University's theology department has resigned amid allegations that he sexually abused a seminary student 28 years ago, the university said yesterday.

The Rev. Arthur B. Chappell, 61, stepped down in May after former Villanova student Gary Belkot accused the priest of abusing him over the course of his freshman year from 1975 to '76, said university spokeswoman Barbara Clement.

Belkot, 46, who now lives with his wife and children in Delaware, had been studying to become an Augustinian priest with Chappell serving as his spiritual adviser.

William Sweeney, an attorney for the Augustinian order, said Chappell acknowledged having inappropriate sexual contact with Belkot, who was then 18, but the priest disputed the "the number and places and nature of events" and maintained the relationship was consensual.

Belkot said he was victimized about 25 times while living in campus seminary housing.

"He used his priesthood and the sacraments of the church to manipulate me," Belkot said in an interview yesterday. "It's all about power, and his illness."

Belkot said he reported the abuse in 1977 to a Villanova psychologist, who notified the Augustinian order. He said he contacted Villanova administrators, including the university president, last January after becoming involved in support groups for sexual abuse victims.

The Augustinian order had volunteered to pay Belkot $300 a month for counseling over the next three years. Belkot refused the offer, mainly because it was contingent on an agreement not to sue.

Belkot's attorney, Gregory Gianforcaro, said his client was upset because, in two meetings with the Augustinians this year, the order indicated that they would not seek to have the priest defrocked.

"We asked them to do that, and they said he was counseled at the time, and they didn't feel it was necessary," Gianforcaro said.

A telephone listing for Arthur B. Chappell could not be found late yesterday. The priest's attorney, John Rogers Carroll, did not immediately return a call left at his office.

 
 

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