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  Pastor: Pornography Is 'Weakness' in Leesburg

By Dan Telvock
Leesburg Today
December 22, 2005

In a letter sent to a Loudoun Circuit Court judge, a Chantilly pastor sharply criticized Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Plowman for his prosecution of Father Robert Brooks, a former Leesburg priest who pleaded no contest to attempting to possess child pornography, saying the prosecutor's handling of the case was "not Christian."

The Rev. Sean K. Rousseau of the Corpus Christi Catholic Mission in Chantilly, and a former pastor at St. John's the Apostle Catholic Church in Leesburg where Brooks worked, wrote Circuit Court Judge Thomas D. Horne on Nov. 20 and stated he is appalled with the actions of Plowman in the Brooks case, saying Plowman is "a man who calls himself a Catholic, yet he purposefully persecutes a priest in the public forum for a private weakness."

Rousseau's letter was recently included in the court file for Brooks, 73, who was ordered to serve two years on probation after his sentencing Dec. 12. Horne was not the judge in the case because he recused himself, along with the other two Circuit Court judges.

In Rousseau's letter, he claims Plowman only went forward with the case for the "self-centered gain of his career, rather than out of a true concern for justice."

The pastor asked the courts to show "extreme mercy" for Brooks, saying his life has already been destroyed.

Contacted by phone Monday, Rousseau also said he believes there was a conflict of interest with Plowman prosecuting the case. Brooks was the priest at St. John's in Leesburg where Plowman and his family attend services.

"Considering all the other judges recused themselves who knew Bob, I think there is a conflict of interest there," he said. "I think the existence of that relationship creates that. Did anyone ask him if he liked Bob as the pastor of St. John's in Leesburg?"

Plowman said he changed parishes, moving to the Leesburg church when he became commonwealth's attorney and that he received the complaint about Brooks shortly thereafter. He said he did not have a personal relationship with the priest because he had just joined the church and does not believe he had a conflict in the case.

But Rousseau said Plowman dropped a letter intended for Brooks in a collection plate passed through the congregation. That letter, Rousseau claims, led to Brooks resignation. Although Rousseau said he did not see the letter, he said it was described to him as "very emotional that expressed great disappointment."

"I think the letter was the final blow for [Brooks] where he realized [he] need[ed] to go. He had been thinking about it," Rousseau said. Rousseau said the fact Brooks resigned from his position and lost his standing should have been enough punishment.

"That's why I am looking at that thinking, [Plowman] could have simply respected the fact Father Brooks reacted and responded and did what he felt was best by resigning his position."

Plowman strongly denied the pastor's claim that he wrote a letter to Brooks, saying it was "ridiculous," "very strange" and that it "didn't make any sense." He also said he found the contents of Rousseau's letter offensive.

"He has no business leading a church mission," Plowman said Monday. "His attitude is the exact reason the church got in trouble: don't prosecute him, just let him resign and go hide under a rock somewhere, hide the problem, circle the wagons and don't hold him accountable."

During the interview Monday, Rousseau said it appeared questionable that the federal government did not prosecute Brooks for an investigation it conducted, but Plowman did. He said even Plowman couldn't prove Brooks possessed child pornography—prosecutors were unable to determine the age of individuals shown in material collected from the pastor—and that Brooks' case did not directly involve a child, but if it did, "that would be certainly a totally different situation."

"They conducted the sting operation which netted about 900 people," the pastor said. "They decided they didn't have what they needed to prosecute him for child pornography possession so they dropped the case and then the local authority decided to continue it. So, what was the good that came out of that? The man had already lost everything. He lost not only his position here, which he only had a couple more years to retirement, but he lost his standing, his reputation, he lost everything, so what else is there left to do to someone his age?"

Plowman said the federal government had Brooks' case for about six months and he had no knowledge of it until September 2004 when the case was referred to his office. Plowman said evidence was stronger to show Brooks intended to possess child pornography.

"It is very irritating to hear this stuff about 'oh gee, it was just this innocent guy who stumbled upon a Web site and believed they were male models. I am not buying that for a second. I mean come on," Plowman said. "I didn't ruin his reputation. Brooks is the one that engaged in that activity. I think the bishop needs to take a hard look at whether [Rousseau] should be leading a community and whether he is providing a proper moral compass for the people in that community. This is a guy who is supposed to be a spiritual advisor and providing a moral compass for an entire community and the attitude he wrote in his letter is not one I am sure the bishop supports."

Rousseau is a former pastor at St. John's, where he spent four years. He said Monday that during his time in Leesburg he learned the community's strengths and weaknesses and one problem stood out to him.

"Pornography is a weakness in Leesburg," he said. "That's my four years of experience there. It is a community that is very connected to technology. Technology makes it very easy to access these sorts of things and many times people can access these thing and no one knows."

Plowman said pornography is a multi-billion dollar industry that is in every community and that these cases are not unique to Leesburg.

"It is everywhere," he said. "What Rousseau is trying to do is cover for Father Brooks, minimize his activity and put the blame on someone else."

The diocese continues to investigate Brooks after one man made claims before the sentencing hearing that Brooks exposed himself more than 30 years ago. Soren Johnson, director of communications for the Diocese of Arlington, said the diocese has not completed its investigation and would not comment.

"The diocese is conducting its own investigation of the allegations, as required by the policy," he said. "The diocese has not yet made any final determination as to the merit of the allegations."

As for Rousseau's comments in his letter to Plowman, Johnson said the pastor from Chantilly does not speak for the diocese. Instead, he provided a Nov. 30 statement from Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde, who does speak for the diocese. Loverde asked the court to consider Brooks' age and the "excellent" ministry he provided before the charges and pleaded for a "fair yet lenient sentence."

"I clearly acknowledge the grave seriousness of this offense� Immediately after being contacted by the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office about the results of its investigation, I contacted Father Brooks, who immediately resigned the office of pastor," Loverde stated. "I also immediately revoked his priestly faculties, thereby removing him from all active priestly ministry �," the bishop stated.

 
 

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