- The Washington Times - Friday, March 22, 2002

A Roman Catholic priest who has been accused of inappropriate behavior with two sisters, now adults, has been removed from his parish and placed on administrative leave.

D.C. Metropolitan Police will not investigate the charges of sexual misconduct against Monsignor Russell Dillard and Archdiocese of Washington officials said he probably never will be assigned as a priest at the parish level again.

The sisters told archdiocese officials last week that Monsignor Dillard kissed and touched them inappropriately from 1979 to 1984 when they were in grades eight through 12.

The archdiocese, abiding by its own code for handling child-abuse cases, reported the incidents to the Metropolitan Police Youth and Preventative Services Division. Yesterday, police spokesman Sgt. Joe Gentile said the accusations came too late, well beyond the six-year statute of limitations.

"The department couldn't place charges even if the [accusations] were proven," Sgt. Gentile said.

Monsignor Dillard, 54, was placed on administrative leave Monday and was sent to a residential facility for evaluation to determine if what the two women reported was accurate. Archdiocese officials said he has made no further statement.

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, head of the 600,000-member archdiocese encompassing the District of Columbia and five suburban Maryland counties, said yesterday he feels terrible about the sex-abuse accusations against Monsignor Dillard, but "the first concern" has to be the children.

At a press conference at the archdiocese in Hyattsville, Cardinal McCarrick said the priest probably will not be assigned at the parish level again.

"I have spoken to him," said Cardinal McCarrick. "He acknowledged a physical relationship but not beyond the bounds of propriety.

"There's nothing about child abuse in the files that I know of," Cardinal McCarrick said of the monsignor's record, adding, "I feel so bad about it because I have great regard for him.

"It's a sad day because one case of sexual abuse is one too much," Cardinal McCarrick said, explaining that celibacy requires expressing love universally and not preferentially.

"If the allegations are accurate, he will not be allowed to return to the ministry," said Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Washington.

Monsignor Dillard was pastor of St. Augustine parish in Northwest, where Mayor Anthony A. Williams is a congregant. He was also on the mayor's Religious Advisory Council.

Born in Washington in 1948, Monsignor Dillard was ordained in 1978 when he was first assigned as associate pastor at St. Anthony's in Northeast. The girls were parishioners there. In 1987, he was appointed pastor of St. Martin of Tours in Northwest and, in 1990, pastor of St. Augustine's, marking the first time it was headed by a black priest.

* H.J. Brier contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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