Survey Reveals Arlington Diocese Abuse Data
In Past 30 Years, One Deacon and Nine Priests Have Been Accused of Child Sex Crimes
By Caryle Murphy
February 18, 2004
Nine priests and a deacon in the Catholic Diocese of Arlington have been accused of child sexual abuse over the past 30 years, and the diocese has spent about $155,000 on victim counseling, settlements and legal fees, according to a diocesan report to be released today.
One of the nine priests was exonerated, two are deceased and a fourth, who is retired, is not permitted to administer sacraments, said the report, which was to be published today in the diocesan weekly newspaper, the Arlington Catholic Herald. The report said the remaining priests and the deacon were removed from ministry.
The abuse allegations were made by a total of 11 people, the diocese said. The nine accused priests, it added, represent 1 percent of the 891 diocesan and religious order priests who served in the diocese in the past 30 years.
The statistics were compiled for a national survey mandated under the children protection policies adopted in 2002 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Arlington Diocese covers all of Northern Virginia, and its review went back to 1974, when the diocese was established.
Diocesan spokesman Soren Johnson would not name any of the accused priests or the deacon yesterday, saying that the diocese wanted to respect "the privacy and reputations of the individuals involved." Johnson said that one of the priests was criminally prosecuted in Henrico County and that the exonerated priest, who is no longer working in the diocese, was cleared after an investigation by Prince William County's child protective services.
In a statement read by Johnson, Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde said that "in order to move forward to ensure the safety of children under our care, we must know the extent to which children were abused in the past both nationally and locally. With this account of our past, I am hopeful that we will emerge more deeply and steadfastly committed to the call for holiness."
Victim advocates expressed skepticism at the number of victims noted in the report. "It would be foolish for us to trust that there were only 11 victims" in the Arlington Diocese, said Mark Serrano, regional representative of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. "It is necessary to be skeptical about data that the diocese submits without scrutiny by others."
Evelyn Mercantini of the Northern Virginia chapter of Voice of the Faithful, a lay organization formed in the wake of the church's national abuse scandal, said she was "surprised and saddened" at the numbers. "Now that we have the data, clergy and laity have an obligation to . . . reach out to support these 11 survivors. . . . Now is the time for Bishop Loverde to set the standard and lead our diocese and our church so we can begin to repair the damage created by this crisis."
Two Arlington Diocese priests accused of sexual abuse of a minor have been named in news media reports. Monsignor William T. Reinecke, 53, shot himself to death in 1992 after being confronted by a man who accused the priest of molesting him 25 years earlier. A second man later alleged that Reinecke also abused him as a child.
In 1994, the Rev. Stephen Roszel was placed on administrative leave after a woman accused him of abusing her when she was a minor. Roszel denied the allegation. The civil suit was settled under undisclosed terms, and Roszel was returned to ministry. He is no longer on the diocese's list of active priests, however.
The U.S. bishops' national survey, which is being conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, is aimed at providing a more complete picture of the nature and scope of child sex abuse in the church.
Survey results, to be released Feb. 27, will not include data for individual dioceses. But so far, more than 86 of the 194 dioceses participating in the survey have voluntarily published their findings.
The Baltimore Archdiocese disclosed in September 2002 that 56 of its priests had been accused of child sexual abuse since the 1950s and that it had spent more than $5.6 million in related expenses in the past 20 years. In November, the Washington Archdiocese revealed that 26 of its priests had been credibly accused over a 56-year period and that it spent $4.3 million in expenses stemming from those cases.
Baltimore released the names of its accused priests. Washington did not, but its officials said that 16 of the priests had been named in previous media accounts and that the others were deceased.
The Arlington Diocese has 391,000 Catholics, Washington has 556,851 and Baltimore 500,178.
In the Arlington Diocese, which was carved out of the Richmond Diocese 30 years ago and covers 21 counties, the earliest incident of abuse was in the 1960s and the latest one in 1994, the diocese reported. It added that there are no pending abuse allegations against any priests in the diocese.
Since 1974, the diocese has spent about $55,000 on victim counseling and settlements and $100,000 on legal fees, it said, adding that the money came from insurance and "general operating revenues," not from donations by church members. Johnson also said that the priests removed from ministry are receiving "limited financial support" from the diocese.
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