Navy Still Undecided on Action in Molesting Case

United Press International 1988
January 17, 1988

Six months after a Navy chaplain was convicted of fondling a young girl, the Navy still has not decided what action the military should take in the case.

The case of Rev. Owen Melody, a lieutenant commander and Catholic priest who confessed to fondling the child over a three-year period, points up the larger problem of a military and church hierarchy slow to admit such cases exist.

Melody's religious order, Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity, has taken no disciplinary action, saying the action of Norfolk Circuit Court will suffice, the Virginian-Pilot and The Ledger-Star reported Sunday.

Melody received a 20-year suspended sentence and 10 years probation, but must undergo five years of therapy at a center that attempts to help pedophiles, those who are attracted to children, control their behavior.

He is also prohibited from working with children under 18.

On July 31, Melody acknowledged through his attorneys that he had abused the girl, who was the daughter of close friends, over a three-year period. Under a plea bargain agreement that allowed the victim not to testify, Melody was convicted of the two most recent incidents.

Melody, 55, who had gained national recognition for his work in the war on drugs, has been restricted to administrative duties by the Navy since his arrest.

Navy officials said they had not acted on a request by Melody to resign from the service. Judith Resolute, deputy public affairs officer for the Norfolk Naval Station, said the Navy has not disciplined Melody because it was a civil case.

However, Navy policy requires that, except in some incest cases, any serviceman convicted of child molestation leave the service, a public affairs officer for the Navy in Washington said.

Lt. Aaron Long, public affairs spokesman for the commander of the Atlantic Fleet, said the Navy is considering whether to initiate other action, such as a court-martial or dishonorable discharge.

Walter Sullivan, bishop of the Diocese of Richmond, refused comment on the case. Because Melody is in the Navy, he serves under a national archdiocese for the military.

And the Rev. Edwin Dill, administrator of Melody's religious order, said he is not sure he will look into the case closely.

"Quite frankly, we're not convinced of the guilt of this whole situation.

These things get a little messy ... you don't even know why people plead guilty sometimes," he said.>

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