|Archdiocese Removes Priest Pending Outcome of Investigation
Church of St. Patrick Pastor Faces Decades-Old Allegations
By Kristin Harty
August 23, 2009
CUMBERLAND — The pastor of the Church of St. Patrick has been fired amid allegations that he sexually abused a minor in the mid-1970s — charges he has denied.
Monsignor Thomas Bevan, 73, was removed from the ministry Aug. 19 and cannot function as a priest until an investigation is complete, the Archdiocese of Baltimore announced Sunday afternoon.
"If the allegations are proven false, he would be restored to the ministry,"?said Sean Caine, spokes-man for the Archdiocese. "If they are credible, he would remain permanently removed."
About 200 church members gathered at St. Patrick's on Centre Street Sunday afternoon to find out what happened to Bevan, after he was replaced by a guest pastor during Masses Saturday and Sunday. The meeting, led by Bishop Mitchell Rozanski, lasted less than an hour.
"I'm just in shock,"?said Susan Cioni, a St. Patrick's member for 27 years. "It's still like it's not real. We've known Father Bevan for a long time. He did wonderful things for St. Patrick's. I'm very sad. Of course, he's not proven guilty yet. Who knows what will happen."
According to the Archdiocese, in June, a former student at the parish school of St. John Catholic Church in Frederick said he was abused on a number of separate occasions while Bevan was an associate pastor there from 1974 to 1979. The Archdiocese said it immediately reported the case to civil authorities in Frederick County, but was instructed not to take further action, including conducting its own investigation or contacting Bevan.
The Archdiocese said it received permission from county authorities last Tuesday to resume its investigation. Archdiocese representatives met with Bevan — and fired him — the next day.
In 2005, Bevan faced a similar accusation of sexually abusing a minor, but the case was not pursued because of a lack of evidence, the Archdiocese said. Bevan denied the charge, which stemmed from alleged incidents in 1974.
Bevan, who was ordained as a priest in 1963, has been pastor at St. Patrick for 12 years. With about 900 families attending, it's one of Allegany County's largest churches.
Members were concerned Sunday about the future of the parish — and about Bevan's well-being.
"We just wanted to make sure he's OK,"?said lifelong member Jeff Widdows, who attended Sunday's meeting and learned that Bevan is being taken care of financially and receiving counseling.
Bevan couldn't be reached for comment.
"A lot of parishioners came away feeling very resentful that they've removed him before the accusations are proven,"?Widdows said. "The church has gone from one extreme to another —?from sweeping it under the table to guilty until proven innocent ... I understand that if the allegations are true, he has to pay consequences, but this man's reputation has been ruined."
In addition to serving at St. John in Frederick and St. Patrick in Cumberland, Bevan served as associate pastor at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Middle River (1963-1974); pastor at St. Mark in Fallston (1979-1991); temporary administrator at St. Mary in Cumberland (1991-92); and temporary administrator at St. Patrick in Mount Savage (1992).
Bevan served as executive director of the Secretariat for Priestly Life & Ministry for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops from 1992 to 1997, and in the Office of Clergy Education for the Archdiocese from 1976 to 1991. During his time as an associate at Mount Carmel, he taught religion and church history at the parish high school. While an associate at St. John, he taught liturgy courses at?Mount St. Mary's.
Caine said that two representatives from the Archdiocese will help run St. Patrick in Bevan's absence, with Father Jim Kurtz, pastor of SS. Peter and Paul in Cumberland, stepping in, as well.
Counseling has been of-fered to those affected by the allegations, Caine said.
More than 4,450 Catholic priests have been accused of sex abuse between 1950 and 2002, according to a study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Of 11,000 total allegations, 6,700 were investigated and substantiated, the study said. Another 1,000 were unsubstantiated, and others were not investigated because the priests involved had died by the time the allegation was made.
Cases gained widespread public attention after a series of Boston Globe articles in 2002.
Contact Kristin Harty at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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