Alexandria police are investigating allegations that a Catholic priest currently serving in Montgomery County sexually abused minors decades ago before he was ordained, according to police and church officials.

The pastor of Holy Cross Catholic Church in Garrett Park, Md., who has not been charged with any crime, is charged with committing the abuse before he became a priest in 1991, the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington told parishioners in a letter Friday.

The archdiocese “immediately” placed him on administrative leave after learning of the alleged abuse on Friday, wrote the Reverend Anthony Lickteig, the archdiocese’s vicar for clergy and ministerial executive secretary. He said the accused pastor’s priestly faculties – including his ability to say Mass and administer the sacraments – have been suspended and he is no longer at the parsonage where he used to live.

Lickteig encouraged anyone with information about the allegation to contact Alexandria Police and said the Archdiocese would cooperate fully with law enforcement’s investigation.

“It is important that you are made aware of the facts given the seriousness of this matter and our deep commitment to the safety of our young people and the healing of those who have been harmed by abuse,” he wrote to the press. parishioners.

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The archdiocese did not respond to questions from The Washington Post about the number of minors the pastor is accused of abusing, their ages, and where and when the alleged abuse occurred.

Attempts to contact the pastor through a parish email address and phone numbers listed for him in public records were unsuccessful.

The Catholic Church has faced relentless pressure since 2002 to respond more quickly and transparently to allegations of sexual misconduct, and the US Church has invested several million dollars in improving its systems. After years of tension over what constitutes effectiveness and accountability, the church’s abuse crisis burst into the spotlight again in 2018, when Washington-based Cardinal Theodore McCarrick resigned amid abuse charges and a cover-up and a Pennsylvania grand jury report into abuse and leadership failure there. led to the early resignation of Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl.

The Archdiocese of Washington learned of the allegation against the pastor of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington after someone reported it to that jurisdiction on Friday, the two dioceses said. Mary Shaffrey, spokeswoman for the Diocese of Arlington, said her diocese immediately notified police and would participate in any police or archdiocesan investigation if requested.

The Archdiocese of Washington demands mandatory reporting of suspected cases of child abuse and the immediate dismissal of anyone credibly accused of abuse, according to its website.

“Any employee, volunteer, clergy or religious who receives a disclosure of abuse or suspects child abuse or mistreatment is mandated to report it to civil authorities, (and) the school or parish cooperates with the civil authorities while the investigation is conducted,” noted Courtney Chase, executive director of the archdiocese’s Office of Child Protection and Environmental Safety. She added: ‘When an allegation is made against an individual, they are immediately removed and the investigation begins. There is no leniency when an allegation is made.

The Archdiocese of Washington plans to communicate more with Holy Cross parishioners and members of its school community this week, said Paula Gwynn Grant, spokeswoman for the archdiocese.

“When more information about the law enforcement investigation becomes available, we will be able to respond further,” she said in a statement Monday.

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Marcel Bassett, a spokesman for Alexandria Police, said Monday his agency had just “received” the allegation and was investigating it.

“We take the allegations seriously,” he said.

At the end of Masses at St. Croix on Sunday, Lickteig told parishioners he would stay at the back of the church to answer questions as he could, according to video of the service. He said he was praying for the church members, the pastor and “those who made this allegation”.

Salvador Rizzo contributed to this report.

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