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Diocesan Statement: Diocese of Arlington responds to grand jury indictment of Father Terry Specht

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The Diocese of Arlington was notified by the news media on December 28, 2021, that Father Terry Specht was indicted by a Fairfax County Grand Jury on charges related to alleged sexual abuse of a minor. Father Specht served as a priest in the Diocese of Arlington from 1996 to 2012 and as director of the Diocese’s Office of Child Protection from 2004 to 2011. He has not been serving in priestly ministry since 2012. 

Two separate allegations were brought to the Diocese of Arlington regarding Father Specht, one in 2012 and the other in 2019. The Diocese immediately reported each allegation to law enforcement. In 2012, Father Specht was placed on administrative leave related to the initial allegation and the Diocese of Arlington’s Review Board conducted an investigation. The Review Board found the allegation to be inconclusive, and law enforcement never brought charges related to the 2012 allegation. The Diocese reported the 2019 allegation to law enforcement and was never notified as to the status of the investigation. 

Following being placed on administrative leave in 2012, Father Specht requested medical retirement due to an illness and was granted that request. Since that time, Father Specht has not served in priestly ministry and will not return to ministry in the future. 

In cooperation with Attorney General Mark Herring’s investigation of clergy sexual abuse, the Diocese provided information and files related to Father Specht, including all information available to us about the allegations received by the Diocese in 2012 and 2019.

Father Specht’s former role as director of the Office of Child Protection was as a policy administrator and instructor. He never oversaw the investigation of allegations of sexual abuse of a minor nor did he have a role in priestly assignments. Following the 2012 allegation, to ensure the integrity of the office, the Diocese authorized a third-party investigator to review the Office of Child Protection’s policies, staff and procedures to ensure nothing was compromised. The investigation uncovered no issues.

As a priest in the Diocese of Arlington, Father Specht underwent a criminal background check and completed VIRTUS safe-environment training. He also underwent recurring background checks every five years, consistent with diocesan policy.

The Diocese of Arlington has a zero-tolerance policy for abuse and continues to be fully committed to training our clergy, staff and volunteers to identify and report suspected instances of abuse. No one with a credible accusation of abuse of minors is serving in the Diocese.

Anyone with any relevant information regarding Father Specht should immediately call the Fairfax County Police Department at (703) 691-2131.

We encourage anyone who knows of any misconduct or abuse on the part of any cleric, employee or volunteer of the Diocese to notify civil authorities, as well as to reach out to the diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator at (703) 841-2530.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021