Priest Removed from Post after Women Allege Sex Abuse

By Raymond McCaffrey
Washington Post [Ellicott City MD]
March 27, 2007

A Catholic monsignor has been removed as pastor of an Ellicott City parish and banned from serving as a priest after two women alleged that he sexually abused them 40 years ago when they were about 15 or 16 years old, the Archdiocese of Baltimore said yesterday.

Monsignor Richard E. Smith, 67, the pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Ellicott City, was a newly ordained priest on his first assignment at Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Woodlawn when the alleged sexual abuse occurred, said Sean Caine, a spokesman for the archdiocese.

When confronted Friday by the archdiocese, Smith "admitted to aspects" of the allegations involving his old church, which was renamed St. Gabriel in 1997, Caine said. "Other aspects he could not recall," Caine said.

Staff and parishioners were informed of the development in meetings that followed a brief announcement at Sunday Masses, Caine said, and letters were sent yesterday to parents of children at the parish's elementary school.

An attempt to contact Smith by phone at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help rectory was unsuccessful. The call was referred by a staff member to the archdiocese.

Caine said the archdiocese notified the Baltimore County state's attorney. Jason League, an assistant state's attorney, said police will conduct a criminal investigation.

Caine said the archdiocese launched its investigation after being contacted March 16 by one of the women. The woman, who still lives in Maryland, said she felt compelled to report the allegations after seeing a photograph of Smith in the Catholic Review, a weekly newspaper, and realizing he was still serving as a priest.

"She apparently thought he was no longer in ministry and didn't think she had to come forward at that point," Caine said.

When asked whether she knew of any other victims, "she provided the name of another individual she thought may also have been abused," Caine said.

After being contacted, the second woman, who lives in another state, "claimed that she had been abused around the same time period," Caine said, although the woman apparently had no intention of ever reporting the incident.

"The second said she would go to her grave with it," Caine said. "She had put it in a place where she didn't want to deal with it."

The archdiocese did not release the name of either woman.

In a news release, the archdiocese said one woman said that "she had a series of sexual encounters over a course of months in 1967 when she was approximately 15-16 years old. Another woman has indicated that she and then-Father Smith had one inappropriate sexual interaction sometime in 1966 or 1967 when she was about 15 years old."

Acting in accordance with new policies drafted by Catholic bishops in 2002 after a sex abuse scandal involving priests, representatives promptly met with Smith and his canonical attorney Friday, the day he was removed as pastor.

"For us, any inappropriate contact with a minor is inexcusable and intolerable," Caine said. "Once it was determined that they were credible, action was immediately taken."

Caine said the archdiocese is also trying to find others who might have relevant information.

Tony Mello, a parishioner for 20 years, reported that there was a groundswell of parishioner support for Smith, who was assigned to the church in 1996. "What happened in the past, I can't account for. ...I will personally petition the cardinal to bring him back."

Subsequent assignments for Smith included St. Bernard in Baltimore in 1967, St. Mary in Cumberland from 1968 to 1973, St. Mark in Fallston from 1973 to 1978, St. Jane Frances de Chantal in Riviera Beach from 1978 to 1983, St. Clare in Essex from 1983 to 1987, Our Lady of Sorrows in West River from 1987 to 1996 and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Crofton in 1996.


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