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  Diocese Ousts Priest
Pastor Accused of Misconduct

By Alberta Lindsey
Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)
August 2, 2003

A 47-year-old Roman Catholic priest accused of sexual misconduct with five minors has been dismissed from the priesthood.

The Rev. Dwight E. Shrader, 47, pastor of St. John the Apostle Catholic Church in the Sandbridge area of Virginia Beach since 1989, can no longer wear a clerical collar, perform sacraments or carry out any priestly ministry.

"The bonds are broken," said the Rev. Pat Apuzzo, spokesman for the Diocese of Richmond. Shrader "is no longer an employee of the diocese."

Four males and one female, who now range in age from 19 to the mid-20s, accused Shrader of either making sexual comments or touching them inappropriately.

"It was mostly verbal interactions that the young people didn't take him up on," Apuzzo said. "There was no sexual intercourse. But it was something we don't want priests doing."

The five were adolescents at the time of the incidents, which occurred during the past five or six years, Apuzzo said. Some incidents happened as recently as two years ago, and not all happened at St. John the Apostle, he added. Most of the complainants still live in the Virginia Beach area; none were identified.

Shrader is the sixth priest in the diocese since May 2002 to be accused of sexual misconduct with a minor. In the other cases, the alleged abuse occurred between 20 and 30 years ago. Three of those priests were retired and barred from conducting any priestly duties, one was returned to active ministry, and one is still being investigated.

Shrader, described by Apuzzo as "a very hard-working priest," is undergoing therapy at an out-of-state facility. He will receive an undisclosed severance package, and the diocese is paying for his therapy. He will receive no other monetary support from the diocese, Apuzzo said.

The first complaint against Shrader was made in May. Bishop Walter F. Sullivan referred the report to the diocesan review board. On June 5, at the board's recommendation, Shrader was placed on administrative leave while the complaint was investigated.

After the initial complaint was made public, the diocese received four additional reports of incidents involving Shrader.

On July 28, the review board presented Sullivan with a unanimous decision to dismiss Shrader. The bishop asked for and received the priest's resignation, Apuzzo said.

In a letter to be read this weekend at St. John the Apostle, Sullivan expressed gratitude to those who came forward and to Shrader for cooperating "with true care and goodwill to bring this matter to resolution."

The bishop called the misconduct "a terrible shock to us all." He added: "These have been very difficult days, especially for those directly involved."

A new pastor will be appointed soon and will begin his duties at St. John the Apostle Labor Day weekend, Sullivan said.

 
 

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