Virginia Beach Pastor Dismissed for Sexual Misconduct

Associated Press State & Local Wire
August 1, 2003

The pastor of a Roman Catholic Church in Virginia Beach has been fired for sexual misconduct with five adolescents, the Diocese of Richmond announced Friday.

All the victims are now adults, and it was one of them who made the initial accusation in May against the Rev. Dwight Shrader of St. John the Apostle church, the Rev. Pasquale Apuzzo, spokesman for the diocese, said at a news conference.

The diocese subsequently received four more reports of misconduct. The victims were four boys and one girl, Apuzzo said.

The misconduct "goes back five or six years," he said. All the victims were in the Virginia Beach area, but not all were members of St. John the Apostle Church, Apuzzo said.

Shrader, ordained in 1982, did not engage in sexual intercourse with any of the victims, but there was physical contact or verbal misconduct such as sexual jokes or propositions, Apuzzo said.

Bishop Walter Sullivan turned the original allegation over to a diocesan review board that investigates sexual misconduct by priests.

The review board unanimously decided on July 28 that Shrader should be dismissed from the priesthood and the diocese. Sullivan carried out the recommendation.

"Bishop Sullivan asked him for his resignation, and he got it, very quickly." Apuzzo said. "The bonds are broken. He is no longer an employee of the diocese."

In a letter that will be read to St. John the Apostle congregants this weekend, Sullivan expresses gratitude for those who came forward and to Shrader for cooperating "with true care and good will to bring this matter to resolution."

Sullivan said the misconduct by Shrader, characterized by Apuzzo as a "very hard-working priest," was "a terrible shock to us all."

Apuzzo said the church had not turned any of the allegations over to police. He said it was up to individual victims to make any criminal complaint.

Shrader, 47, had been the only pastor since the parish of about 5,000 people was founded in 1989 in the Sandbridge area of Virginia Beach.

Shrader had also served at St. John Neumann in Powhatan, Holy Cross School and parish in Lynchburg, St. Matthew in Virginia Beach and St. Therese in Chesapeake.

Apuzzo said Shrader was undergoing therapy at an out-of-state institution. He said the church was paying for that therapy but otherwise had severed all financial ties to Shrader.

The sex-abuse case was the latest in a series against Catholic priests in Virginia.

In January, the Rev. John P. Blankenship pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy in 1982 at a Prince George County church but avoided prison.

Last September, the diocese retired the Rev. Eugene Teslovic, pastor of St. Luke's Church in Virginia Beach, after an investigation unearthed decades-old allegations of sexual misconduct with minors.

The Rev. Julian B. Goodman, a Charlottesville pastor, was removed from the ministry in August for allegedly sexually abusing a student in the 1970s at St. John Vianney, a now-closed Catholic high school in Goochland County.

Apuzzo urged Catholics to "keep your eyes open" for priestly misconduct. Priests who engage in such behavior "are sexual abusers who became priests, not priests who became abusers," he said.


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