Four local Catholic priests have been removed from their parishes and assignments after admitting that they sexually abused the same altar boy during the 1970s, a top church official said Sunday. One of the four also admitted to abusing a second youth from 1988 until two years ago.
Churchgoers in five parishes where the priests had served learned the news at Mass Sunday. At St. Bernardine of Siena Roman Catholic Church in Suitland, Md., and at the Shrine of St. Jude in Rockville, Md., worshipers sat in stunned silence as a letter from Cardinal James A. Hickey was read from the pulpit. Some dabbed at tears and drew their children close as Hickey’s letter revealed why their pastors had disappeared without explanation 10 days earlier.
The priests were identified as the Rev. Thomas Schaeffer, 69, who was removed last month as chaplain at Carroll Manor nursing home; the Rev. Alphonsus Smith, 70, pastor at St. Bernardine since 1989; the Rev. Edward Pritchard, 50, who last served as associate pastor at St. Mary’s Church, and the Rev. Edward Hartell, 58, pastor at St. Jude’s for the last several years.
Never before has the archdiocese simultaneously dismissed so many priests for pedophilia, said Monsignor William Lori, chancellor of the archdiocese.