3rd Man Accuses Priest of Abuse

By Alan Cooperman
Washington Post
July 13, 2002

A third Washington area man said yesterday he was molested in the early 1970s by the Rev. Paul E. Lavin, who was placed on leave Thursday as pastor of St. Joseph's Church on Capitol Hill while the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington investigates allegations against him.

The latest accuser said he decided to come forward after reading about the other allegations in yesterday's Washington Post. He said Lavin sexually abused him on two weekend trips to Pennsylvania during the 1971-72 school year, when he was a 15-year-old student at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville and Lavin was the school's chaplain.

Lavin, 58, did not return telephone calls or e-mail messages yesterday about the latest allegation. He said Thursday that he "absolutely, categorically" denied the earlier accusations and that, on the advice of friends, he would not comment further.

The third accuser spoke on condition of anonymity, saying he feared social ostracism if co-workers learned that he was sexually abused. He said he had not yet contacted police but gave his name and a brief report of the alleged abuse to Auxiliary Bishop Kevin J. Farrell yesterday afternoon and scheduled a face-to-face session with him for next week.

Susan Gibbs, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, would not comment on whether another alleged victim had come forward. "We need to respect the confidentiality of those who approach us," she said.

The man, now 45, said that he described the alleged abuse several years ago to a lawyer, Larry D. Lamson of Prince Frederick, but that he had "no intentions whatsoever" of filing a lawsuit for damages from Lavin or the archdiocese.

In a telephone interview arranged by Lamson, the man said that during his high school years, he was active in the youth retreat program Encountering Christ Through Others, or ECHO, which Lavin founded. He said he "very much enjoyed the friendship" with Lavin until a retreat in Pennsylvania during the 1971-72 school year, when the priest "asked me to sit on his lap and tried to kiss me on the lips."

Although ECHO sessions often involved "a lot of male hugging," he said, he felt that Lavin had gone too far and began to feel uncomfortable being alone with the priest. Still, he said, the friendship continued, with Lavin sometimes taking him to a local bar.

"It wasn't uncommon for him to park down the street from my house, and I would sneak out the basement door and we'd drive up to the [bar] and drink beer and eat onion rings," he said. "I was only 15 or 16, but we would never be questioned, because he was in his collar."

The second, and more serious, incident of sexual abuse, he said, came during a weekend trip to Pennsylvania to paint a house that belonged to Lavin's mother. He said Lavin suggested that they share a bed. During the night, he said, the priest "reached around and put his hands around the front of my pants, into my pants."

He said he pretended to sleep through the abuse and feigned ignorance in the morning, when Lavin apologized.

"He said, 'In the middle of the night, I put my hand down your pants, and I'm sorry,' " the man said. "I took it as sincere, and even today, as a 45-year-old man looking back on it, I still think it was a sincere apology."

The man's account bears some similarities to allegations by Michael Mollish, 40, of Ellicott City, who says that he was abused by Lavin as an 8-year-old in 1970, and by George Kresslein, 45, of Annandale, who says he was abused by the priest in 1973, when he was a 16-year-old student at Bishop McNamara High School.

Both men accuse Lavin of befriending them and molesting them on road trips. But Kresslein said the alleged abuse took place in Lavin's grandmother's house -- not his mother's house -- in Pennsylvania.


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