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Roman Catholic Priest Indicted On Sodomy Charges In Virginia For Alleged Abuse 20 Years Ago

Aug 22, 2002 | AP

A Roman Catholic priest was indicted Tuesday on four counts of sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy two decades ago, authorities said.

Authorities began investigating in July when the alleged victim, now 34, contacted the county prosecutor, said police Lt. Bill King.

"The reason he came forth is because he thought this priest had been maneuvering his way back to working with children," King said.

Police Chief Edward Frankenstein said the Rev. John Blankenship was not at his Richmond home Tuesday and that police were told he was visiting friends in an unknown location.

King said arrangements were being made with Blankenship's lawyer for the priest to turn himself in.

A spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, the Rev. Pasquale Apuzzo, said of the indictment: "We had no idea this was coming."

Blankenship, 65, allegedly abused the boy while he was pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Prince George County. The alleged victim, who police said has requested that his identity not be released, had helped with chores around the church.

Blankenship had served as a priest in the Richmond diocese since his ordination in 1963. Bishop Walter Sullivan learned of the alleged abuse in 1988 and put Blankenship on administrative leave, requiring him to receive psychiatric treatment, the diocese said.

Apuzzo said Tuesday they didn't know the priest's whereabouts.

About 300 priests have been dismissed from their duties or resigned since the sex abuse scandal erupted in Boston early this year.

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