‘Deeply saddens us’: Bethesda church stunned about sexual abuse allegations against priest

WJLA-TV (ABC) [Arlington VA]

October 5, 2022

The Holy Cross Parish in Montgomery County has tweeted in the past that they are so thankful for the leadership and support of their “amazing pastor, Fr. Robert Buchmeier.” Now, this community is still trying to wrap its head around the news that their beloved priest has been suspended and faces serious allegations.

Buchmeier has been removed from his duties after allegations of sexual abuse of a minor that was alleged to have occurred in Northern Virginia three decades ago.

Father Buchmeier has been at Holy Cross since 2015. Before his vocation, Buchmeier served 15 years as an officer in the U.S. Army. Church leaders wrote in a letter Holy Cross Church and The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington take seriously our responsibility to protect children entrusted to our care. The abuse allegedly occurred in Northern Virginia.Holy Cross Church in Garrett Park, Md. on Oct. 5, 2022.

The investigation is being conducted by the Alexandria Police Department. As of Wednesday morning, no charges have been filed against the priest.

The inappropriate behavior reportedly occurred outside the Archdiocese before the priest’s ordination 31 years ago. Buchmeier has served at several Maryland churches including:

  • St. John the Evangelist in Clinton
  • St. Bernardine of Siena in Hillcrest Heights
  • St. Mary’s in Bryantown
  • Holy Family in Mitchellville
  • St. Nicholas in Laurel
  • St. Columba in Oxon Hill
  • Sacred Heart in La Plata
  • Christ the King in Silver Spring
  • Holy Cross Catholic Church in Garrett Park

Father Anthony Lickteig, the Secretary for Ministerial Leadership for the Archdiocese of Washington, spoke to the Holy Cross congregation during Sunday mass and wrote a letter to the community:

“It deeply saddens us to have to share some difficult information, however, we believe it is important to make the community aware of a matter involving child protection concerns,” Lickteig wrote to Holy Cross parishioners. He added that the archdiocesan and parish officials “will fully cooperate with the investigation by the civil authorities and comply with the Child Protection and Safe Environment Policy of The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington.”

During Sunday mass he told those in attendance, “I’ve heard how much Father Robert means to you and how much he has done for this parish and how much you love him. And so I have a small understanding of how horrific and painful this news is.”

The Archdiocese of Washington has had a child protection policy that has been in effect for more than 35 years.

Washington Cardinal Wilton Gregory, in his letter to priests, wrote that he recognizes that “this news is quite painful to hear. It has been quite painful for me, too.”

Anyone with information on this incident is asked to contact the Alexandria Police Department, Criminal Investigations Division, at 703-746-4444. You can also contact Courtney Chase, Executive Director of the Archdiocese’s Office of Child Protection & Safe Environment, at 301-853-5302. The Archdiocese of Washington also makes resources and information about protecting children available online here.