Diocesan priest placed on leave

Father Terry W. Specht, a priest of the Arlington Diocese, has been placed on administrative leave pending investigation of an allegation of sexual misconduct involving a male minor in the late 1990s. The investigation is in its initial phase and no final determination has yet been made regarding the allegation.

Father Specht denies the accusation.

The diocese has received no other allegations of misconduct against Father Specht. Like all priests, diocesan employees and volunteers who work with children, he underwent an official background check early in his tenure.

Pursuant to the diocesan child protection policy, the Fairfax County Police Department was notified when the diocese received the allegation, and the diocese is cooperating fully with law enforcement.

The majority lay-person Diocesan Review Board, which advises Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde and reviews allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clerics, has been advised of the allegation and will continue to review the information that is gathered during the investigation. Under diocesan policy, any priest with an allegation of abuse or misconduct with a minor that reaches a final determination of credibility is permanently removed from ministry.

Father Specht served as a parochial vicar of St. Mary of Sorrows Church in Fairfax from 1996 to 2000, as chaplain and assistant principal at Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax from 2000 to 2004, as the director of the diocesan Office of Child Protection and Safety from 2004 to 2011, and as administrator and pastor of Holy Spirit Church in Annandale since 2007.

"Any allegation of abuse deepens the pain felt by all Catholics, and particularly survivors of abuse. We are committed to full cooperation with law enforcement regarding this allegation, and I have directed an independent investigator to review the actions and decisions made by Father Specht during his tenure as director of Child Protection," said Bishop Loverde.

The bishop has appointed Father Paul F. deLadurantaye as parochial administrator of Holy Spirit Church.

The diocese encourages anyone who knows of any information related to this case, or of any misconduct or abuse on the part of any cleric or employee of the diocese, to notify civil authorities, as well as to reach out to the diocesan Victim Assistance coordinators, Patricia Mudd at 703/841-2537 and Adlin deCardi at 703/841-2530. The Fairfax County Police Department asks individuals with any information to contact them at 703-246-7854.

The diocesan child protection policy is online at arlingtondiocese.org.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2012