- The Washington Times - Friday, May 10, 2002

BALTIMORE A former church volunteer says a former Catholic priest raped her 13 years ago and that Cardinal William Keeler covered up the incident by falsely promising to look into the matter if she dropped criminal charges.
Prosecutors said they were prepared to file criminal charges in the case, but the purported victim, Rita Dolores Monahan, asked that they not be filed. The State's Attorney's Office said their records do not specify what type of charges.
Ray Kempisty, a spokesman for the Baltimore archdiocese, said its investigation found no evidence to support the rape charge. Mr. Kempisty also denied that Cardinal Keeler tried to cover up the claims.
Mr. Kempisty said Thomas R. Schwind, the former pastor, was transferred to another church in the archdiocese in 1990 partly because of the atmosphere created by the woman's charges.
Miss Monahan said Father Schwind was her confessor at St. Ambrose Church in Baltimore when he sexually assaulted her Feb. 12, 1989, in his living quarters. She said Father Schwind attacked her after they finished praying together. No one else was in the building at the time of the attack, she said.
Efforts by the Associated Press to reach Mr. Schwind for comment yesterday were unsuccessful.
Police said they did not investigate the complaint at the time.
"We were never notified about this incident [in 1990]. We do have the case now," said police spokeswoman Ragina Averella.
When the complaint was first made, the State's Attorney's Office had its own sexual-abuse unit that investigated such cases, said Marty Burns, a spokeswoman for the State's Attorney's Office, which has reopened the case.
Miss Monahan said Cardinal Keeler asked her to consider dropping the charges, telling her through an intermediary that the Catholic Church didn't need a scandal. He told her the church had an internal forum assigned to deal with sexual-abuse cases, she said.
"According to our records, the victim was requested by the church to drop the case and was advised the suspect would get counseling in this matter," Miss Burns said. "The victim indicated that she did not want to pursue criminal charges."
Miss Monahan said she dropped the charges after the cardinal promised to inform St. Ambrose parishioners about the incident. Miss Monahan, who now lives in Chicago, said Cardinal Keeler never honored his pledge and transferred Father Schwind to another Baltimore parish, St. Ann's Catholic Church.
"The betrayal by Cardinal Keeler was, if not as devastating as the actual sexual assault, maybe more so because I trusted the church," Miss Monahan said.
Mr. Kempisty said Father Schwind was transferred to St. Anne's "to change the atmosphere at St. Ambrose," noting that St. Anne's was without a pastor when Father Schwind was transferred.
Father Schwind also underwent counseling, but did not admit guilt, Mr. Kempisty said. The former pastor was granted a leave of absence from the priesthood in 1993 and has not returned.
Miss Monahan said she refused to sign an agreement that would have given her $5,000 in exchange for keeping quiet about the incident. She said she is considering civil action against the archdiocese and Mr. Schwind.
The archdiocese released a statement yesterday saying Miss Monahan had accused Father Schwind of sexual assault. In 1990, Miss Monahan was granted a private meeting with Cardinal Keeler, and the church offered to pay $5,000 to "cover her expenses," the statement said.
The archdiocese said it asked her to sign a settlement in which she would agree not to pursue criminal charges against Father Schwind. She did not sign the settlement, according to the statement.
Baltimore police detectives contacted the archdiocese Wednesday to subpoena documents related to Miss Monahan's complaint in 1990. The church is cooperating fully, Mr. Kempisty said.
During the past few months, the U.S. Catholic Church has been rocked by sexual-abuse accusations against many priests. Last month, Pope John Paul II held a two-day summit with the 13 U.S. cardinals including Cardinal Keeler to discuss the matter.
Miss Monahan is a member of SNAP, the Survivors' Network of Those Abused by Priests, an advocacy group that is calling on the church to endorse new laws making it easier to investigate sexual-abuse charges.
The group also held a news conference yesterday in Hyattsville asking Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick to support such legislation.


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