Diocesan Officials Deny Sexual Abuse Allegations Made by Former Ireton Student

By Michael F. Flach
Arlington Catholic Herald
September 4, 1997

Arlington Diocesan officials deny charges of sexual abuse by a former student at Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria who has filed a $10 million dollar lawsuit against his former teacher, the principal, the Oblate community and the diocese.

The lawsuit accuses the Oblate priest — who taught at the school until 1996 — of sexually harassing the student during a three-month period in 1995.

"The Catholic Diocese of Arlington and the administration at Bishop Ireton High School have recently received a motion for judgment in which a former Ireton student asserts he was the subject of humiliating sexual comments in the fall of 1995 by a member of the Ireton faculty," said Father Robert J. Rippy, diocesan chancellor, in a prepared statement.

"The diocese and the school are still reviewing the pleading which contains several inaccuracies and misleading innuendo, but find no claim that the plaintiff was sexually abused by any clergy or any school personnel at the time," said Father Rippy.

"Equally important, the diocese has no evidence�that the teacher named in the lawsuit was the subject of any demonstrated incidents, or even allegations, of sexual misconduct either before or after the actions claimed by the plaintiff," Father Rippy said.

The priest "is no longer on the faculty at Bishop Ireton High School, as he received a position on a college faculty in possible preparation for pursuing doctoral studies," he said.

"The diocese and Bishop Ireton High School have been and of course remain concerned as to the well-being of the plaintiff. This will become more apparent as evidence of the school making various accommodations for the plaintiff, both before and after the alleged incidents in the fall of 1995, come to light.

"At this juncture, the diocese and the school are unable to further address any specific inquiries on the subject since the issue may be in litigation and involve student privacy issues."

The parents of the boy and their attorney argued in their presentation that school and diocesan officials knew about the situation, but took no action to remove the priest. No criminal charges have been filed against the priest.

The suit asks for $1.25 million in damages from the priest and other school officials; $3.75 million from the Oblates and the diocese on each of four counts charging inflection of emotional distress, breach of duty and negligence; and $5 million on a fifth count charging that the Oblates and the diocese negligently retained the priest as a teacher.


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