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  Petersburg Priest Is Expelled for Abuse
Order Comes 2 Days after Other Clergyman Was Forced to Resign

By Steven G. Vegh
Virginian-Pilot(Norfolk, Va.)
August 10, 2002

Catholic Bishop Walter F. Sullivan expelled a Petersburg priest Friday for child sex abuse, two days after forcing the resignation of a onetime Norfolk priest for the same offense.

The Rev. John P. Blankenship in 1982 abused a 14-year-old boy who was a member of the church he pastored, Sacred Heart parish in New Bohemia. He admitted the misconduct after the boy told the diocese in 1988.

The Rev. Pasquale Apuzzo, Sullivan's spokesman, said in a news conference Friday that the bishop is still reviewing known cases of past abuse involving two other priests who continue to serve in the Diocese of Richmond. He also is looking into incidents involving priests who are no longer alive.

Blankenship, 65, was sent by the diocese to St. Luke's Institute, a Catholic psychiatric hospital in Silver Spring, Md., for seven months and received outpatient therapy for six more years.

By the time the diocese learned about the abuse, Blankenship had become a full-time chaplain at the Federal Correctional Institution in Petersburg. The bishop let Blankenship continue in that job because it did not involve contact with children, Apuzzo said.

The diocese also arranged for Blankenship to be monitored by the supervisor of chaplains at the prison.

Sullivan renewed his scrutiny of the Blankenship case after the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in June, adopted more stringent guidelines for defining and preventing sexual abuse by clergy, Apuzzo said.

Apuzzo said he had no information on whether Blankenship committed one act of abuse against his victim or several.

Blankenship paid for his victim's counseling and college education. The victim met with Sullivan after the bishop decided Blankenship would be removed.

Blankenship's only service in Hampton Roads during his 39-year career was more than two decades ago, when he pastored St. Mary Star of the Sea at Fort Monroe in Hampton. He also pastored in Winchester, Arlington, Richmond and New Bohemia.

On Wednesday, Sullivan removed the Rev. Julian B. Goodman permanently from ministry.

Goodman, who served Blessed Sacrament Church in Norfolk for 12 years until 1999, admitted he abused a student at St. John Vianney Seminary, a Catholic boys high school where he taught. The abuse occurred at the school from 1976 to 1978 and - after the school closed - continued in 1979 at Goodman's Colonial Heights parish.

Blankenship never worked at St. John Vianney, the school at the heart of an investigation this spring into allegations against another priest, the Rev. John E. Leonard.

Leonard, who was a teacher and principal at Vianney, has denied any misconduct. At least three former students testified before a two-person diocesan team that investigated their allegations.

Sullivan exonerated Leonard in June, saying tests and evidence did not justify removing the priest as an abuser.

Several members of the diocese's sexual-abuse panel complained that Sullivan left them out of his decision-making. Jeanne Doucette, a therapist from Norfolk, this week became the fourth member of the panel to resign, saying the Leonard case should be reopened.

Neither the Goodman nor the Blankenship case had to go before the panel, because both priests admitted their misconduct, Apuzzo said.

Blankenship and Goodman are banned permanently from ministry with the public. They are also prohibited from saying Mass or wearing the clerical collar publicly.

However, Apuzzo said Sullivan did not plan to initiate the lengthy process of "laicizing" and ejecting the men from the priesthood.

Apuzzo said he and the bishop "are trying to do our best to bring this out" because they believe their actions will help deter other priests from abusing children. He explained that the current policy distinguishes between victims of current abuse and survivors of past abuse. In survivor cases, he said, the policy is to let the individual choose whether to bring charges against the abuser. But if a victim reports current abuse, the diocese will report the allegations to police.

 
 

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