Arlington Priest on Leave after Sexual Misconduct Allegation
April 19, 2012
An Arlington priest has been placed on leave while authorities investigate allegations that he engaged in sexual misconduct with a teenage boy in the 1990s, church and police officials said Wednesday.
The Diocese of Arlington said the investigation into Rev. Terry Specht is in its initial phase and no determination about the alleged misconduct has been made.
The Fairfax County Police Department is also investigating the case. No charges had been filed against Specht as of Wednesday, police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said.
Specht, who was a pastor and administrator at Holy Spirit Church in Annandale until he was placed on administrative leave, denies the allegation, according to a statement from the diocese.
Before that, he served for seven years as the director of the diocese's Office of Child Protection and Safety. That office, according to its website, "provides programs to ensure a safe environment for children" in the church, including offering support for child-abuse victims.
Church officials began looking into the allegation after the victim came forward in late January, diocese spokesman Michael J. Donohue said.
The alleged misconduct happened while Specht was serving as a parochial vicar at Saint Mary of Sorrows Church in Fairfax, Donohue said. Specht worked there from 1996 to 2000.
Donohue said Specht knew the boy who made the allegation through church activities. Donohue would not say how old the boy was at the time of the alleged abuse, but said he was a teenager.
Police and church officials would not provide further details about the alleged misconduct.
Donohue said the allegation involved one incident between Specht and the boy. He would not say whether the alleged incident happened on church property.
Caldwell said the case was brought to the police department's attention in February.
"The diocese is committed to full cooperation with law enforcement," Donohue said.
The case comes as allegations of sexual abuse by priests -- and criticism of church officials who failed to report the abuse -- have roiled Catholic parishes across the country during the past two decades.
"Any allegation of abuse deepens the pain felt by all Catholics, and particularly survivors of abuse," Arlington Bishop Paul Loverde said in a statement.
The Diocesan Review Board, which looks into allegations of child sexual abuse by clerics, is reviewing the matter.
Specht was the chaplain and assistant principal at Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax from 2000 to 2004.