Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Maryland Jesuit Province has found that a 2003 accusation of sexual abuse against a priest who taught at Georgetown Preparatory School is “substantially true,” according to letters sent to parents of students and alumni of the private school in North Bethesda.

The Rev. Garrett “Gary” Orr, who was investigated but not charged by Montgomery County police, is on a leave of absence and has been barred from assignments at schools and parishes, the Very Rev. Timothy Brown, the Jesuit provincial head, said in a letter to the Rev. William L. George, president of Georgetown Prep.

“It is with a heavy heart and a sense of great sorrow,” began Father George’s two-page letter, dated April 10, to parents of 450 boys at the country’s only Jesuit boarding school.

“I recognize this news will be difficult for many members of our community,” he wrote in a letter that was accompanied by Father Brown’s. “There are inevitable feelings of sadness, disbelief and anger, which are the same emotions I have been struggling with.”

School officials say one student accused Father Orr, who taught religion, Latin and theater, of “inappropriate touching” in the fall of 2002. The student graduated before reporting the incident to school officials in October 2003, said Kate Pipkin, director of communications for the Jesuit province.

The priest, who had already left the school to teach at Loyola College in Baltimore, denied the charge, and the school did not report the incident to police until May 2004.

Once police were contacted, Father Orr’s priestly standing was suspended. He remained at the college throughout the 2004-2005 school year in a ministry without one-on-one contact with students, Father Brown wrote.

In March 2005, police suspended the investigation with no criminal charges filed. A call to Montgomery County police yesterday asking for more details was not returned.

A Jesuit review board took up the case and decided the accusation “was substantially true,” Father Brown said. Last September, Father Orr was given a year’s leave of absence with the proviso that he not visit Georgetown Prep’s campus.

Brian Gnatt, spokesman for Georgetown Prep, said reactions from surprised parents were “mixed.”

“A lot of people are appreciative the school is facing this head-on,” he said.

Mark Gauvreau Judge, author of the 2005 book “God and Man at Georgetown Prep,” which says the school employs many homosexual clergy, said the priest put in a teaching stint at the school in 1979 when Mr. Judge was a student there.

“Everyone there knew he was gay,” Mr. Judge said of the priest. “Which, combined with the leftist politics of the school and the rejection of official church teaching on sex and if you’re near 400 teenage boys, is a recipe for disaster.”

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