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  Baltimore Pursues Complaint on Priest
Interview Planned in New Abuse Case

By Annie Gowen
The Washington Post
July 6, 2002

Baltimore police investigating allegations that a priest molested a 14-year-old boy in April said yesterday that they plan to interview the cleric within a few days.

The Rev. Alfred A. Dean, 42, the pastor of St. Francis Xavier Church, was placed on administrative leave by the Archdiocese of Baltimore on Wednesday after the teenager told police that Dean had kissed and fondled him after giving him a tour of the church.

Dean is the first Baltimore priest to be accused of sexual misconduct since a landmark decision last month by U.S. Catholic bishops to adopt a zero-tolerance policy on priests who abuse children.

Shortly after the archdiocese learned of the allegations, church officials placed Dean on administrative leave, pending the outcome of the investigation. Officials suspended his priestly faculties -- meaning he is not allowed to say Mass or engage in any ministry -- and moved him out of the St. Francis Xavier rectory and into the headquarters of his religious order, the Josephite Fathers.

"We have an absolute commitment to protecting children," said archdiocese spokesman Stephen Kearney. "In light of that, placing Father Dean on administrative leave was the only responsible thing to do."

Kearney said Josephite priests would talk with parishioners about the allegations after Mass tomorrow at historic St. Francis Xavier, which calls itself the first black Catholic parish in the United States. Josephite priests referred all calls to Kearney yesterday.

"There are no charges against Reverend Dean at this time," Baltimore police spokesman Troy Harris said. "He doesn't have any previous infractions like this, and they're looking into what the boy is charging. Once the investigation into the case is concluded, they'll decide whether there's enough evidence to go on further."

In the meantime, Harris said, the teenager's complaint would be treated as "credible."

The teenager was interviewed at length Wednesday evening by a clinical social worker at the Baltimore Child Abuse Center as prosecutors and police detectives looked on, a law enforcement source said. Harris said he did not believe that the alleged offense rose to the level of a sexual assault.

Dean was the sixth priest from the Baltimore diocese to be accused of criminal conduct this year, and the second prominent African American pastor to be caught up in the diocese's growing sex abuse scandal.

In May, the Rev. Maurice J. Blackwell was shot and wounded outside his Baltimore townhouse by a 26-year-old man who alleges that Blackwell abused him in the early 1990s when he was a teenager and the priest was pastor of St. Edward Church.

Blackwell was suspended from his priestly duties in 1998 after admitting to an affair with another youth.

 
 

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