Catholic chaplains punished in sex cases

Saturday, April 27, 2002

WASHINGTON -- The Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal has touched the military, where a handful of priests serving as chaplains have been punished after molesting children or making sexual advances toward adults.

In one case, the Dallas Roman Catholic diocese ordered a priest who was accused of molesting boys to join the Army, where he later confessed to molesting a boy, according to evidence in a lawsuit.

Church officials also helped persuade victims of child sexual abuse by military priests not to press charges in at least two of eight cases, according to testimony reviewed by reporters.

Victims' advocates say such cases, although fewer than a dozen in number, are part of a nationwide pattern by the church of abuse and cover-up. None of the priests remains in his military job.

"If they wanted to get rid of someone, the military was just another placement," said attorney Sylvia Demarest, who represented a man allegedly molested at age 15 by the priest ordered into the Army. "It didn't matter that they were pushing this off on people who were serving our country."

Eight cases

An review of court records and other public documents found eight military priests accused in lawsuits or criminal cases of sexual misconduct in the past 25 years. They were convicted of sex crimes, disciplined by the military or privately sued in cases the church lost or settled out of court.

In addition, the Diocese of Greensburg, Pa., said this month it had an unidentified Army chaplain put on leave after receiving an allegation of sexual abuse dating back more than two decades.

Several of the cases involve allegations of misconduct by chaplains with soldiers. In one, a Navy chaplain was fined for touching an enlisted man inappropriately during a massage.

The military has about 5,500 active duty, reserve and National Guard chaplains. About 850 of them are Catholic priests.

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