Villanova faculty member resigns amid sex allegations

Sunday, July 13, 2003

PHILADELPHIA -- The chairman of the theology department at Villanova University, accused of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a seminary student in the mid-1970s, has resigned, a university spokeswoman said Saturday.

The Rev. Arthur B. Chappell resigned in May, several months after the alleged victim said he was sexually abused in 1975 and 1976 while studying to be an Augustinian priest at the suburban Philadelphia university, said spokeswoman Barbara Clement.

William Sweeney, a lawyer for the Augustinian order, said Chappell has acknowledged engaging in inappropriate sexual behavior with Gary Belkot but "disagrees significantly with Mr. Belkot in the number and places and nature of events."

He said Chappell, who at the time was serving as a provincial secretary in the Augustinian order but had no position at Villanova, considered the sexual contact to be consensual.

The university was founded by the Augustinian order of the Roman Catholic Church.

Belkot, now 46, said he was the victim of about 25 instances of sexual abuse during his freshman year, when he lived in an on-campus house of seminarians. He was 18 at the time.

Chappell has not been charged in the case.

"It was very much like this brainwashing thing," Belkot, who is now married with three children and lives in Delaware, said in an interview Saturday.

Belkot said he reported the abuse in 1977 to a Villanova psychologist who then notified the order, but no written report of the complaint was ever produced. He said he began contacting school administrators last January after becoming more involved in support groups for sexual abuse victims.

There was no telephone listing in Pennsylvania for Chappell, and his attorney did not immediately return a call left at his office.

Clement said Chappell had worked at the university for about 15 years, during which time there had "never been any report of anything of questionable behavior."

Chappell's resignation was first reported Friday by WPVI-TV.

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