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Priest Quits After Porn Accusation

Sep 13, 2002 | The Washington Post

The pastor of a Roman Catholic church in Fredericksburg has resigned after another priest accused him in a court deposition of having gay pornographic videos and photos in his rectory bedroom.

In the deposition, taken in July, the Rev. James R. Haley also alleges that other priests in the Arlington Diocese have collected such material and that Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde has tried to ignore his complaints about the problem.

The Rev. Daniel E. Hamilton, 59, pastor of St. Mary's parish in Fredericksburg, resigned Aug. 26 after Arlington Circuit Court Judge Joanne F. Alper indicated at an Aug. 2 court hearing that she was not inclined to grant a request from diocesan attorneys to put Haley's deposition under seal, which would have kept it from public view. Alper ruled Aug. 29 that she would not seal the document.

The diocese released a statement yesterday denying that Loverde failed to take action when Haley took his allegations to the bishop. It said that Loverde ordered Hamilton to undergo evaluation and treatment last fall and that Hamilton "fully cooperated."

"Despite these facts, certain persons recently took it upon themselves to publicize Father Hamilton's past failing," the diocese said. "Because his ministry could be negatively impacted, Father Hamilton submitted his resignation as pastor."

Hamilton, who was ordained in 1972, had been pastor of St. Mary's for two years. Diocesan spokeswoman Linda Shovlain said the diocese would not make him available to comment.

Haley, who believes that homosexuals should not be ordained as priests, has said in interviews that he is disillusioned with the open displays of homosexuality he has seen among priests in the diocese. In several cases, he has gathered evidence to document his allegations.

Last year, Loverde suspended Haley from his priestly duties and barred him from speaking to anyone about alleged misconduct by priests. Haley, 46, yesterday took the unusual step of appealing to Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, to intervene in his case.

Haley said in the deposition that last October, when he and Hamilton were assigned to St. Mary's, he showed Loverde "a slide show of the pictures of [Hamilton's] incredible collection" of pornography. Some of the materials had been mailed to Hamilton at the church's address, Haley said.

Haley said that a week later Loverde asked him to resign and that, when he refused, he was suspended from his ministry.

Haley's deposition was taken in connection with a $5 million civil suit filed against the diocese by Jim A. Lambert, a former Manassas resident who alleged that diocesan officials failed to stop a romantic relationship between Lambert's wife and their parish priest, the Rev. James A. Verrecchia. Verrecchia eventually left the priesthood and married Lambert's wife.

Alper dismissed the lawsuit last month, ruling that church officials had no legal duty to tell Lambert what they knew about the relationship.

Haley said he alerted Loverde to the relationship in mid-1999, giving him copies of e-mails between Verrecchia and Nancy Lambert. Loverde at first suggested that Haley had "doctored" the e-mails, and four days later he transferred him to another parish, Haley said. Four months later, Loverde ordered Verrecchia to end all contact with Nancy Lambert.

Haley's deposition also refers to the case of the Rev. William J. Erbacher, whom he said he discussed with Loverde in June 2001. Erbacher was pastor of St. Lawrence's in the Franconia section of Fairfax, where Haley was then stationed. Haley alleged that Erbacher was stealing money from collections taken at weekend Mass. He said he also showed the bishop "pictures of [the] homosexual pornography collection" Erbacher kept in his room at the rectory.

The diocese announced in July 2001 that Erbacher had been suspended because of alleged financial wrongdoing. Haley said that Loverde took the action only after the media received information about the allegations, including documents showing that Erbacher deposited more than $320,000 into his personal bank account over three years.

In its statement yesterday, the diocese said Loverde disciplined Erbacher and initiated an audit of the parish books as soon as he heard the allegations. It said that Erbacher was sent for evaluation and resigned as pastor.

Shovlain also said yesterday that the diocese is "in the process" of sending information on Erbacher's case to the Fairfax County commonwealth's attorney's office. The diocese declined to make Erbacher available to comment.

In the deposition, Haley said he once asked Loverde "whether there was anything wrong with homosexual priests, and he kept saying that there was nothing wrong, and I was floored by that."

In a statement to parishes in May, Loverde said his predecessor had not allowed homosexual men to be sponsored for seminary studies and that the policy "has not been changed."

Haley said the diocese asked him to enter a treatment facility as a condition for getting a new assignment. "It seemed to me that the only person that was getting into trouble was me and that I was somehow suffering for what I thought I should be thanked for," said Haley, who continues to receive $2,000 a month from the diocese for living expenses.

Yesterday, Haley's attorney wrote to Gregory asking him to "prevail upon Bishop Loverde to withdraw his punitive measures against Father Haley."

Haley said in an interview yesterday that he has appealed to Gregory in hopes of getting "a recognition that a problem exists in the Diocese of Arlington as well as more broadly in the church with homosexual behavior by priests."


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