Pastor in Roanoke Accused of Sex Abuse
He Is Suspended Pending Outcome of Church Investigation
August 27, 2002
The Rev. Steven "Randy" Rule, pastor of Roanoke's oldest Roman Catholic parish, has been placed on administrative leave after he was accused of sexual misconduct.
Rule, 53, has led the 1,400-family St. Andrew's Catholic Church congregation since 1993.
The Catholic Diocese of Richmond announced the suspension Monday, but offered few details.
A spokesman for the diocese said church officials have not determined the nature of the misconduct or whether the accuser's complaint stems from an incident that occurred during Rule's nine-year tenure at St. Andrew's. The diocese spokesman, the Rev. Pasquale Apuzzo, said he did not know whether Rule's accuser is male or female.
Rule is a Roanoke native who attended Roanoke Catholic School, in the shadow of St. Andrew's. He taught religion courses at the school and coached the golf team.
He is a graduate of Virginia Tech and of St. Francis Seminary in Loretto, Pa. After studies at the University of Notre Dame and his ordination in 1974, Rule taught at the now-closed St. John Vianney Seminary, a boys' high school, in Goochland County.
Rule's tenure at St. John Vianney overlapped that of two others recently accused of sexual misconduct.
The Rev. Julian B. Goodman, a faculty member in the 1970s, has admitted he sexually abused a student from 1976 to 1978. Goodman, now in Charlottesville, was removed from active ministry last week.
The Rev. John E. Leonard, who was Vianney's principal from 1968 to 1978 and is now pastor of St. Michael's parish in Glen Allen, has been accused of abusing several students at Vianney and is under criminal investigation by the Goochland County prosecutor's office. He has denied any wrongdoing.
From 1978 to 1981, Rule was associate pastor at Holy Trinity Church in Norfolk. He was pastor of Prince of Peace Church in Chesapeake from 1981 to 1993.
Rule was to move to Richmond next week to succeed Apuzzo as pastor of St. Gabriel's Catholic Church in Chesterfield County, but that assignment is on hold pending the outcome of the church's inquiry.
A dedication of an addition to St. Andrew's - including a chapel, social hall, mausoleum and classrooms - as well as a farewell reception for Rule, had been planned for this weekend. The reception is on hold, Apuzzo said, but the status of the dedication was unclear Monday.
Church officials learned of the misconduct allegation when Rule's accuser complained to a clergy member, Apuzzo said.
Rule will remain on leave pending a psychological evaluation and an inquiry by a diocesan review board formed recently to examine complaints of sexual misconduct against priests. The board will meet for the first time next week, Apuzzo said. Diocese Bishop Walter F. Sullivan will be the final judge in the internal review process.
If Sullivan and the board's six voting members determine the allegation against Rule merits closer scrutiny, they can appoint a separate "fact-finding" panel, Apuzzo said. The review board's members include Frank Ferguson, a top deputy to Attorney General Jerry Kilgore.
Law enforcement authorities may not investigate the allegation against Rule unless they directly receive a complaint from the accuser. Apuzzo said the church automatically turns allegations over to police if accusers are younger than 18 at the time the complaint is lodged. Rule's accuser is an adult, Apuzzo said.
Sharon Newsome, a 21-year parishioner at Prince of Peace in Chesapeake, said she was surprised that Rule was named in connection with alleged sexual abuse.
She worked with Rule as a volunteer in the church's youth group for years, and was his office manager from 1991 to 1993. During that time, there were no accusations or rumors tying the priest to sexual misconduct, Newsome said. "Nothing at all."
"He is a fine man, and a fine priest," added Monica Wheaton, another Prince of Peace parishioner who worked with Rule.
Wheaton said she has confidence in the new diocesan review board that will scrutinize the allegation. "I don't know what the outcome will be, but I have confidence in Randy. . . . I do know the charges like this are not always true."
All five lay members of the committee that investigated the allegations against Leonard resigned in protest after the bishop returned him to his pulpit. Sullivan last week appointed a new board, under guidelines adopted by the U.S. Catholic bishops' conference earlier this year.
Sullivan issued a lengthy defense of his actions in the Leonard case in a recent edition of The Catholic Virginian newspaper. He denied having circumvented the process, insisting he found no grounds for removing the priest.
"I have not wavered from zero tolerance, nor am I less committed to right the wrongs of the past," he wrote.
CORRECTION-DATE: August 28, 2002
Only one of the five lay members who resigned the Diocese of Richmond's former Sexual Abuse Panel after Bishop Walter Sullivan returned the Rev. John E. Leonard to the pulpit did actual fact-finding and interviews with the priest and accusers. A front-page story in Tuesday's paper contained incorrect information. Correction published August 28, 2002, page A2.
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