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  Woman Says Priest Was 'Boyfriend'
Accuser Recalls Hours Spent Alone With Pastor

By Caryle Murphy
Washington Post
March 23, 2002

A woman who has accused a prominent Roman Catholic priest of sexually abusing her as a teenager said yesterday that they often spent hours at a time alone together and that "he pretty much was my boyfriend for four years."

Kathryn Barrett-Gaines, 36, an assistant professor of African history at Xavier University in New Orleans, also said in the interview that many adults observed her close relationship with Monsignor Russell L. Dillard and had reason to be suspicious.

"I think there were a lot of adults who should have said something," Barrett-Gaines said.

Dillard, 54, was suspended as pastor of St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church in Northwest Washington on Thursday by the Archdiocese of Washington and sent for "comprehensive psychological evaluation" at a residential treatment center.

Archdiocese officials said they took the action because two women, who are sisters, came forward this month to accuse Dillard of having kissed and touched them inappropriately from 1979 to 1984, when he was a priest at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Northeast Washington. Officials said Dillard acknowledged that he had physical contact with the girls but denied that the contact was inappropriate.

The archdiocese did not identify either of Dillard's accusers.

Barrett-Gaines, who has a doctorate in African history from Stanford University, said in yesterday's interview that she wanted her name to be used because "I've got nothing to be afraid of. I'm not ashamed or embarrassed. . . . I think people should feel free to come forward."

Church officials declined to reveal where Dillard was taken for evaluation, and he could not be reached for comment on Barrett-Gaines's account of their relationship. Archdiocese spokeswoman Susan Gibbs said she could not comment on the account or on whether it was consistent with what Barrett-Gaines told church officials.

Two priests who worked with Dillard at the time of the alleged abuse questioned parts of her account. A childhood friend of Barrett-Gaines's who was active at St. Anthony's, however, said she observed "exceptional closeness" between the girl and the priest.

Barrett-Gaines said she and Dillard spoke of being "in love" during their relationship, when he was youth minister at St. Anthony's. She recalled that they were together in the sitting room off his rectory bedroom "making out for long periods of time, every day, watching television. . . . I had never kissed anyone before."

Their physical contacts involved inappropriate touching but not intercourse, she said.

"He was a priest, and my parents let me go everywhere with him," Barrett-Gaines said. He would pick her up in his car frequently to run errands or get a meal, she said, and also invited her to the weight room in the basement of the church. "He liked me to watch him work out," she said.

It was only after she expanded her horizons while attending college in New York and their relationship ended, she said, that she realized she had not had a normal teenage life. She said she eventually came to see that Dillard had abused her and realized: "My God, that was awful, bizarre, and it was distracting and interrupting of my development, and he should have known better."

She said many adults, including teachers at church-based schools, were aware of how close they were. She does not blame them for failing to raise an alarm, she added, explaining that Dillard was so "charismatic. . . . I think a lot of people were as charmed by him as I was."

In an interview Thursday with WUSA-TV (Channel 9), Dillard said that he had kissed one of the two girls involved in the allegation of misconduct but that their friendship was "a father-daughter . . . kind of thing" and not sexual in nature.

Two priests who lived with Dillard at the rectory at St. Anthony's said yesterday that they were unaware of any improper relationship between him and Barrett-Gaines.

The Rev. Michael J. Blackwell, now associate pastor of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Landover, was in an apartment a floor below Dillard's. "I was amazed [at the allegations], because I have no memory of the comings and goings of this young woman," Blackwell said.

"If she had been there, I probably would have noticed her on the stairway," he said. "I'm not saying it did not happen. . . . We all had very busy lives."

The pastor of Mount Calvary Catholic Church in Forestville, the Rev. George E. Golden, who lived on the same floor as Blackwell, said of the allegations: "I saw nothing that would lead me to believe anything like this."

The childhood friend of Barrett-Gaines's, who spoke on the condition she not be identified, said she observed the priest and her friend spending hours together every day. "They were closer than anyone else," she said.

"I saw him kiss her one time, at the rectory," she added. The woman said "everybody" had suspicions about their relationship.

Barrett-Gaines said Dillard kept a picture in his sitting room of the two of them that had been taken in Ocean City, Md. She said the rectory housekeepers "were upset that I was constantly in his room" but did not reprimand her or the priest.

As an adult, she said, she called Dillard twice, "in 1989 and 1999, and both times I was in D.C. and neither was friendly. . . . I said, 'You abused me.' He said, 'Oh.' "

She said the Catholic Church's growing national scandal involving priests accused of child sex abuse contributed to her recent decision to notify the archdiocese. "This is not about punishment. . . . It's not my job to punish anybody," she said, adding that she was "happy that the church acted very swiftly and decisively."

An archdiocese board comprising a psychiatrist, a lawyer, several lay people and a social worker with experience in the area of child abuse will review the facts of the case and Dillard's psychological evaluation before advising Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick on whether the priest can return to St. Augustine's.

Gibbs said the archdiocese followed its established policy when it suspended Dillard after the two women made their accusations. Although the archdiocese has not always made a public announcement in such cases, it announced Dillard's suspension because he acknowledged having had physical contact with the two women, Gibbs said.

 
 

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