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Local Priests Face Defrocking for Sexual Abuse

Jun 19, 2002 | WJLA

In the wake of the Catholic Bishops' meeting last week in Dallas, all dioceses must now re-examine past cases of abuse by priests and remove those still in active ministry. Those cases include some here in the Washington area.
Monsignor Russell Dillard is still undergoing treatment according to the Washington Archdiocese. But his fate as popular pastor of St. Augustine's Church is in jeopardy.

Last week, American Bishops voted to permanently remove from active ministry any priest guilty of any act of sexual abuse against a minor.

Dillard is accused of touching and kissing two sister more than 20 years ago. And it a review board believes it, he can never be a priest again in public. Many find that too harsh.

"It's blown out of proportion," said parishioner Vivian Claypoole. " They have a policy now, let's deal with that and go on with the future."

ABC 7's Greta Kreuz asked Vivian if she thought Dillard should be returned. Vivian said, "most definitely."

The Archdiocese may also expedite efforts to completely defrock Father Robert Petrella, convicted offender whose whereabouts are unclear.

The Arlington Diocese will also have to take a second look at, at least one of its priests in Northern Virginia. Father Stephen Roszel is still in active ministry at St. Rita's in Alexandria.

Eight years ago, a woman accused Roszel of abusing her at another parish when she was a child. He denied it, but a civil suit was settled and Roszel returned to work.

Assistant Pastor, Father Mark Moretti told ABC 7, Roszel works in Arlington on the Diocesan Marriage Tribunal, an administrative position.

"What he does is help us out with Mass on weekdays and weekend Masses. It's rather limited ministry, but that's his role," said Father Moretti.

ABC 7 asked Father Moretti if Father Stephen Roszel has any contact with children. Father Moretti told us no. "None whatsoever."

Clearly, the Bishops' conference may be over, but the fallout is just beginning.

The new policy, which must have Vatican approval to become mandatory, would mean priests guilty of any abuse would be send off to monasteries or other such places, or defrocked altogether.

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