- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 21, 2002

PRINCE GEORGE, Va. A Catholic priest who once served in Arlington was indicted yesterday on four counts of sodomizing a teen-age boy 20 years ago, authorities said.
The indictment against the Rev. John P. Blankenship, 65, comes as the Catholic Diocese of Richmond is being buffeted by assertions that it mishandled other cases of sexual abuse by its priests, and as another of its priests is being investigated by authorities in Goochland County.
The diocese announced Aug. 9 that it had removed Father Blankenship as Catholic chaplain at the Federal Correctional Institution in Petersburg and from active ministry. Father Blankenship was ordained in 1963.
The Richmond Diocese said that in 1982, while he was pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Prince George County, Father Blankenship sexually abused a 14-year-old male. Bishop Walter Sullivan learned of the abuse in 1988 and put Father Blankenship on administrative leave, requiring him to receive psychiatric treatment at Saint Luke's Institute in Silver Spring, the diocese said.
Authorities began investigating the case when the victim, now 34, contacted the county prosecutor on July 12 with allegations that he was molested by Father Blankenship, Prince George police Lt. Bill King said at a news conference.
The victim and his family often would help with cleaning duties and other chores around the Church of the Sacred Heart and the parish home, officials said.
Commonwealth's Attorney H. Martin Robertson called the county grand jury back into session yesterday to hear the evidence.
Sheriff Edward Frankenstein said Father Blankenship was not at his Richmond home and that police were told he was visiting friends in an unknown location.
Lt. King, who is heading the investigation, said arrangements were being made with Father Blankenship's attorney for the priest to turn himself in.
The victim is from out of state and has requested to remain anonymous until trial, when he will come to Virginia to testify, Lt. King said.
Lt. King said authorities have documents dating to the 1980s supporting the complaints against Father Blankenship.
Father Blankenship served as Catholic chaplain at the federal prison in Petersburg for 19 years. According to the diocese, Bishop Sullivan allowed him to continue in that role "because he would have no direct contact with minors."
Father Blankenship had also served at Sacred Heart Church in Winchester; St. Agnes, Arlington; St. Mary Star of the Sea, Fort Monroe; St. Mary, Richmond; and St. John, Highland Springs. Winchester and Arlington later became part of the Diocese of Arlington.
The diocese said Father Blankenship told the bishop he "was sincerely remorseful and had apologized years ago to the victim."
Father Blankenship paid for the victim's college education and counseling, the diocese said.

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