Catholic Priest Put on Leave after Sexual Misconduct Allegations

By Michelle Boorstein
Washington Post [Virginia]
May 11, 2006

The Catholic Diocese of Arlington has put a 61-year-old priest on administrative leave after receiving "credible" allegations that he touched two girls inappropriately between 1975 and 1980, a diocesan spokesman said yesterday.

The priest, the Rev. Tran Dinh Nhi, has worked in nine Northern Virginia parishes since he came to the United States from Vietnam in 1975. Most recently, he was assigned to St. Ambrose in Annandale last year.

Diocesan spokesman Soren Johnson said Nhi has denied the allegations, which came to officials' attention in March after one of the alleged victims attended a program about how to spot child abuse. Discussions with her led to a second woman, and a review of both cases by a diocesan board found that the reports met "a basic threshold of credibility," Johnson said.

He said that the alleged incidents occurred in Fairfax County and that the alleged victims were between 13 and 17 years old at the time, but he declined to provide further details. The diocese will continue its investigation, and Nhi will remain on leave pending the outcome, Johnson said.

One phone number listed for Nhi was not in service, and a message left at a second number was not returned yesterday.

The diocese announced the case in this week's edition of the local Catholic Herald newspaper, which goes to 60,000 households.

Diocesan officials notified the Fairfax County Police Department about the allegations, Johnson said, adding that he did not know whether police were pursuing an investigation. A police spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for information.

This is the first allegation against Nhi of sexual misconduct involving a minor, although "there were allegations of an improper relationship with a woman" several years ago, Johnson said. He declined to provide further details about that case but said the investigation did not give diocesan officials any reason "to think he was a danger to young people."

Messages left with several parishioners at St. Ambrose were not returned.


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