- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 15, 2002

The Catholic priest shot in Baltimore on Monday night had been on permanent leave from his church since 1998, when an investigation found he had abused a minor, officials at the Archdiocese of Baltimore said yesterday.
The Rev. Maurice Blackwell was shot three times about 6 p.m. Monday night in front of his house in the 700 block of Reservoir Street.
Dontee D. Stokes, 26, turned himself in later that night, telling police that Father Blackwell had molested him in 1993, police said.
Mr. Stokes drove up to Father Blackwell's front door in his girlfriend's burgundy car and fired at him three times, hitting him in the left hand and twice near the left hip, police said. He then put the .357 Smith & Wesson into a black duffel bag, which he placed in a tree outside a vacant house, they said.
Police found the gun after Mr. Stokes turned himself in. He has been charged with attempted murder, handgun violations and first- and second-degree assault, and was being held last night without bail.
Father Blackwell, 53, was taken to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he was in serious but stable condition yesterday evening, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Mr. Stokes told police in 1993 that Father Blackwell had molested him, police spokeswoman Ragina Averella said. However, an investigation by the State's Attorney's Office found that there was no cause to press charges, she said.
A police report says Mr. Stokes, then 17, had complained that Father Blackwell had been "touching and fondling" him for three years.
Cardinal William H. Keeler said yesterday that he did not regret reinstating Father Blackwell to the ministry after suspending him in 1993 after the accusations by Mr. Stokes. Father Blackwell was sent to Connecticut to be treated by psychologists for his sexual misconduct, and then reinstated in December 1993 after an investigation by the archdiocese came to no conclusion.
Mr. Stokes had been attending a Bible study at St. Edward Roman Catholic Church, where Father Blackwell worked, the report said. He told police that after the class, Father Blackwell would ask him into his office, where he would hug him and start fondling him. He said that when he protested, the priest would raise him voice and "tell [me] to hug him back harder."
In 1998, Father Blackwell was removed from St. Edward and stripped of his authority to celebrate Mass in public one step short of being defrocked. He acknowledged an affair with a different teen-ager 20 years before.
He was known as a charismatic, energetic leader and was credited with helping St. Edward triple in size to about 300 families after he arrived in 1979.
Cardinal Keeler said that Father Blackwell's shooting is an example of the violence that many Catholic priests now fear in the wake of numerous accusations of sexual abuse by priests across the country.
Cardinal Keeler met with 175 priests at St. Mary's Seminary yesterday to discuss the recent scandals, and he said many priests expressed fear about wearing their clerical collars in public. There was a heavy police presence on the St. Mary's campus.
A spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Washington said it has not increased security procedures. "We have had no reason to change our security. Why would we?" she said.
A number of priests also expressed their desire to deepen their spirituality, Cardinal Keeler said.
"We must pray, we must repent, and make it very clear that we will not tolerate this kind of behavior," he said.
Cardinal Keeler said he knew Father Blackwell, but "not well."
"I knew he was much beloved by people of the parish and had a warm, outgoing personality," he said.
Residents of Father Blackwell's neighborhood said they were surprised at the priest's shooting.
"I was shocked that they shot him," said Minor Hearn, 32, who grew up in the neighborhood. Mr. Hearn said he was visiting family down the street when he heard the gunshots.
Mr. Hearn ran to Father Blackwell's house, called 911 and took the priest's mother away from the scene.
"She was standing over him, watching him bleed, saying, 'Look at what they did to my son,'" Mr. Hearn said.
Mr. Hearn said he did not believe Mr. Stokes' accusations. "There's nothing I can say bad about the man," he said.
Melvin McGee heard the shots from his kitchen, ran to the window and saw Father Blackwell lying in the street, bleeding. Mr. McGee has known Father Blackwell for 18 years and considered him a good neighbor.
"He's the last person I would expect to get shot," said Mr. McGee.
Mr. McGee's only complaint was with the number of cars parked on the street on Sundays, when Father Blackwell conducted worship services in his house.
Father Blackwell recently has been working with drug addicts, Mr. McGee said.
The Archdiocese of Baltimore has been busy with two other scandals recently. Officials confirmed yesterday that a third-grade teacher at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School had inappropriately touched at least 12 children, but the number of reported victims keeps growing.
Also, a nun who worked for the archdiocese claimed last week that she was raped by a priest more than 10 years ago.


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