D.C. Diocese Unaware of Abuse

By Julia Duin
The Washington Times [Washington DC]
Dowloaded January 8, 2004

The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington says it is unaware of any uninvestigated or unpunished cases of sexual abuse by priests, as charged in a letter from a Washington law firm that helped win an $85 million settlement from the Boston archdiocese.

"We have done everything [for victims] we have promised to do," Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick told radio station WTOP yesterday. "We have been absolutely open, and everything you know, we know."

Susan Gibbs, a spokesman for the Washington archdiocese, said the church had received the letter from the law firm of Greenberg Traurig, on which The Washington Times reported yesterday.

"We really don't have anything to respond to," she said in a voice mail in response to repeated inquiries from The Times.

She said anyone who has been abused should "tell the authorities, and they can take action. We very strongly encourage people to do that."

On Tuesday night, the law firm of Greenberg Traurig sent a series of demands to the archdiocese on behalf of more than a dozen men, who say they were abused as young boys. The letter said these men were entitled to personal apologies, secular counseling paid for by the archdiocese and face-to-face meetings with the cardinal.

In November, the archdiocese said 26 of its priests had been accused credibly of sexual abuse in the past 56 years. The cardinal insisted yesterday that he was not aware of any additional accusations.

"If there was, I would have handled it," he told the radio station. "I'd be shocked to find if there is anything I don't know about."

Actually, there are "hundreds" of victims in the archdiocese who have yet to come forward, said lead attorney Peter Gillon in the letter Tuesday. And those who have come forward, he says, have been treated "with contempt."

"Church officials have apologized in other places; that was part of the Boston settlement," he said in an interview yesterday. "It's acknowledging responsibility to the victims."

His letter mentioned a specific parish: Mount Calvary Catholic Church in Forestville, located at 6700 Marlboro Pike, about two miles east of the District. Founded in 1912 as a mission of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Upper Marlboro, it was established as a parish in 1942.

Next door is a two-story rectory, the Mount Calvary Convent and Bishop McNamara High School that was built in 1949. On the west side of the rectory are scattered gravestones dating back to the 19th century.

Posted on the walls of the convent is a blue sign: "Prince George's Police Community Policing Satellite Office."

Its pastor, the Rev. George E. Golden, is in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery, said a substitute priest, the Rev. Tom Gude. Father Gude referred all inquiries about the church to the archdiocese.

However, the law firm says, the church was the center from the 1960s through the 1980s of a "network" of child-molesting priests. "Dozens" of boys ages 8 to 16 were treated as "sexual servants," the letter to the archdiocese claims.

The former chaplain at Bishop McNamara, the Rev. Paul Lavin, has been accused by two men of sexually abusing them while one was a student at the school and the other was an altar boy at Mount Calvary.

The archdiocese and the county state attorney's office investigated accusations from the former altar boy, Michael Mollish, now 46, of Ellicott City, Md., in 1997, but said they found no evidence.

However in 2002, a second man, George Kresslein of Annandale, now 46, who was a student at Bishop McNamara, made a similar claim against the priest. Father Lavin then was removed from his post as pastor of St. Joseph's Catholic Church in the District. He has denied accusations that he sexually abused the two men and is appealing his removal.

"Those guys have never received apologies or given secular therapy," Mr. Gillon said. "They were offered pastoral therapy from the church."

Miss Gibbs denies that this means that "we haven't met someone's needs."

"If someone has an allegation, we want to know. If anyone has been hurt, come forward," she said. "We have been saying that for a very long time."

The law firm, which says it still is verifying stories from other young men about the archdiocese, says it is making similar inquiries around the Archdiocese of Miami and the Diocese of Phoenix.

"Based on our experiences in Boston, the number of cases far exceed the number reported," Mr. Gillon said.

Arlo Wagner contributed to this report.


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