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  Va. Priest Defrocked 20 Years after Charges Levied

By Matthew Barakat
Associated Press, carried in Daily Press
July 12, 2004

McLEAN, Va. -- The Vatican has defrocked a 76-year-old priest who was charged with child abuse 20 years ago and afterward served for nearly a dozen years at a Fairfax parish, the Arlington Diocese announced Monday.

Andrew Krafcik, who was charged with child abuse in Henrico County near Richmond in 1984, was "dismissed from the clerical state" Saturday, according to Arlington Bishop Paul Loverde.

The Vatican's decision means that Krafcik, who retired in 1996, can no longer serve in any ministry, celebrate Mass, administer the sacraments, wear clerical garb or present himself as a priest.

According to the Arlington Diocese, Krafcik was ordained in 1959 by the Richmond Diocese. He sought transfer to the Arlington Diocese in 1984. Later that year, he was charged with child abuse in Henrico County and sentenced by the court to counseling instead of jail time.

Krafcik, in a brief telephone interview with the Associated Press, said he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge, but he never believed he did anything wrong. He declined to discuss the specifics of the case.

"My lawyer said I made a mistake talking to the detectives. I thought I had nothing to hide," Krafcik said from his home, an Arlington retirement center. "I didn't think I did anything wrong. ... I still feel that way," after seven years of counseling.

Diocese spokesman Soren Johnson said Krafcik served in "limited ministry" at St. Leo the Great Catholic Church in Fairfax from 1985 until his retirement in 1996. He lived in retirement at Holy Family Parish in Dale City from 1996 to 2002.

Johnson said no other allegations were made against Krafcik either before or after the 1984 charges.

"Krafcik was closely supervised while he functioned as an associate pastor," Johnson said. "His interaction with children was closely monitored, and he underwent a continuing course of counseling."

Johnson said that under new rules implemented in the wake of the church's priest abuse scandal, Krafcik would be permanently barred from the ministry following a substantiated charge of child abuse.

The diocese initiated the dismissal process in September 2002, in accordance with guidelines put in place by the Vatican in 2001, the diocese said.

Krafcik said a canon lawyer defended him in the dismissal process.

"I didn't think it was fair, the case they brought against me," he said.

The diocese, as part of a nationwide review of priest abuse cases, reported in February that it had documented 11 formal accusations of abuse by 10 different clergymen since the diocese was formed in 1974. One of those priests was exonerated, according to the diocese.

David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said it's relatively rare for a priest to be defrocked, even in cases of child abuse.

"Several dozen have been, but hundreds and hundreds have not," he said.

"Often that's because the diocese will not seek it because the Vatican process is extremely tedious and time consuming."

Mark Serrano, a northern Virginia resident who serves on the network's Board of Directors, said the Arlington Diocese has been secretive in its handling of priest abuse cases and needs to further investigate Krafcik's service as a priest.

"There are likely to be many more victims," Serrano said. "Bishop Loverde ought to go to the parishes where Krafcik served or lived and seek out other victims. That would be the compassionate thing to do."

He also dismissed the notion that parishioners at St. Leo's were protected because Krafcik served in limited ministry.

"He's still a threat to children," Serrano said. "It's an oxymoron to suggest there is such a thing as a limited ministry."

Serrano also questioned whether the church has reached out to the abuse victim in the Henrico County case.

St. Leo parishioners contacted by The Associated Press, many of whom became members after 1996, were unaware of any allegations against Krafcik.

"It's very tragic," said one parishioner who declined to give his name. "I feel confident that the people I know in the church, if something like this came to light, it would be dealt with very seriously. ... I'm sad to hear it. I have to pray for him and the victim."

 
 

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