- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 25, 2002

BALTIMORE About 150 angry parishioners urged archdiocese officials yesterday evening to reinstate a beloved priest, saying the Rev. Thomas R. Malia should not have been asked to resign for knowingly hiring a convicted sex offender as a music director.

The Rev. Bruce Jarbo opened the meeting at Holy Cross Catholic Church by telling the crowd why Father Malia was asked to quit. He repeatedly was interrupted by cheers, long ovations and chants of "Bring Father Tom back" each time he mentioned Father Malia.

"[Father Malias] personal connection with Mr. Gee presents a conflict with archdiocesan policy," Father Jarbo said. "The protection of children is a dire commitment of the archdiocese. This is a great commitment that we have."

Father Jarbo also said Father Malia needs to be held accountable for failing to tell the archdiocese about Robert Gee's hiring in 1999. Father Malia will assume a post as associate pastor at another, undetermined church Aug. 1, Father Jarbo added.

Father Malia celebrated his last Mass at Holy Cross on Sunday after being asked to resign last week by Bishop Gordon D. Bennett, who supervises the parishes in Baltimore.

Gee had been convicted of child sexual abuse for sexual contact with a student at Mount St. Joseph High School, where he was a teacher, archdiocese officials said.

Several people asked Father Jarbo why he would give Father Malia a job at another church when he could do the same job at Holy Cross and St. Mary Star of the Sea parish. Others demanded to know why they weren't told about the decision beforehand.

"This is the decision that has been made, and it won't be changed," Father Jarbo told a sobbing woman.

Father Malia was scheduled to marry Douglas Agnes, 31, and Darla Mohney, 29, on Aug. 3 at Holy Cross. Mr. Agnes said he might be forced to change his wedding plans because he wanted Father Malia to marry them.

"I'm surprised that the archdiocese is unable to forgive," he said. "I was raised in this church. I don't know if I will keep coming here."

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