Priest Sentenced to 10 Years for Child Sex Abuse

By Stephen Manning
Associated Press
February 6, 2003

Rockville, Md. - A Georgia priest was sentenced to 10 years in prison Thursday for sexually abusing two brothers while a student at a Washington seminary in the early 1970s.

In a pre-sentencing memorandum filed in the case, Montgomery County prosecutors also allege the Rev. Wayland Brown was kept in the Catholic Diocese of Savannah despite several warning signs and accusations of abuse.

Excerpts from Brown's personnel file show numerous instances where diocesan officials expressed concern about Brown's dealings with young boys. The diocese's top personnel official even recommended in 1977 that Brown not be ordained.

"There is a paper trail that demonstrates the Diocese of Savannah knew this was not a suitable candidate for the priesthood and they still chose to ordain him," said Montgomery County Assistant State's Attorney Peter Feeney.

A diocesan spokeswoman did not immediately comment on the memorandum.

Brown pleaded guilty in Montgomery Circuit Court in November to battery and abuse of the brothers, who were 12 and 13 years old when the abuse began in 1974 at their Gaithersburg home.

One of the brothers told Judge Ann S. Harrington on Thursday of the shame and bitter memories he has lived with since the abuse, which kept him from forming close relationships and drove him to consider suicide.

"Father Brown robbed me of my future and shackled me with chains of guilt," the man, now 42, said in a wavering voice. "Father Brown made me hate being me."

The pre-sentencing memorandum painted Brown as a serial molester who abused several boys throughout the 1970s and 1980s. One, who grew up in Georgia and now lives in Oklahoma, testified Thursday that Brown abused him on a trip to Disney World in 1978.

Brown became close with the Gaithersburg boys while counseling their mother on marital problems. He would sometimes spend the night at the family's Gaithersburg home and took the boys on hiking trips, to movies and concerts.

He apologized to the brothers and the Oklahoma man, all three of whom were in court.

"There is no excuse for what I did, there cannot be," Brown said. "I hated myself for what I did."

The memorandum also alleges the Catholic Diocese of Savannah was aware of concerns that Brown may have abused boys as early as 1969. He was ordained in 1977 over the objections of some diocesan staff but was later assigned to a church with an affiliated school.

Personnel records cited by prosecutors show the diocese's vocations director, who handled personnel issues, recommended to then-Bishop Raymond Lessard in 1977 that Brown not be ordained.

The diocese "would be better off to have no priest rather than an unholy priest," Rev. Robert Mattingly wrote to Lessard.

Brown, however, served as a priest until 1988, when he was removed by Lessard following repeated allegations of abuse.

On Aug. 8, 1986, police in Richmond County, Ga., contacted Lessard about allegations that Brown had sexually abused several young boys. Lessard sent Brown to St. Luke's Institute in suburban Washington, a center that treats priests for sexual disorders and other conditions, where Brown spent nine months and was also treated for alcoholism.

A letter filed with the memorandum, shows Richmond County police Sgt. Darrell Wright contacted Lessard to locate Brown, who Wright said was not helpful. Wright wrote he later discovered the priest had been sent to an undisclosed location and could not be reached.

In a statement to Harrington on Thursday, Brown said he has remained sober and sexually abstinent since returning from St. Luke's in 1988.

After leaving St. Luke's, court records show he was assigned to St. James parish in Savannah as associate pastor, even though the church ran a school.

In May 1988, the school's principal, Sister Kathleen Gorman, wrote Lessard saying parents had asked that Brown not be allowed around young boys, even at Mass. Parents also complained Brown frequently spoke to their children about his genitalia and took students off the school grounds without informing the front office.

"I feel very strongly that we need to be supportive or our priests and go the extra mile to make situations work...but this one is hard for me," Gorman wrote.

On July 8, 1988, Lessard removed Brown from St. James and prohibited him from conducting services.

Lessard, now a professor at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, Fla., did not return a call Thursday seeking comment.

Brown has lived in Savannah since the charges were filed, running a bookkeeping business for area merchants. Several of his clients and a neighbor vouched for his character in court, saying he was an honest man.


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