Archdiocesan Statement Regarding Charge Against Dominican Priest

July 02, 2008

The Archdiocese of Washington learned today from the Montgomery County Police that Rev. Aaron J. Cote, a priest of the Dominican Order, has been charged with a single count of custodial child abuse that occurred in 2001 when he was working part-time at Mother Seton Parish in Germantown, MD.

The charge relates to an allegation received by the archdiocese in 2003 that was immediately reported to the authorities and the Dominican Order. At the time, Cote was no longer serving in the archdiocese. The archdiocese also put the victim in touch with police, immediately offered assistance and to meet with him and his family, and offered its full support in the investigation.

The Archdiocese of Washington did not have any knowledge of any prior wrongdoing by Cote before accepting him for ministry and sought and received written certification from the provincial superior of the Dominicans that there was nothing in Cote’s background that would render him unsuitable to work with children. The archdiocese also sought and received a similar letter from the Diocese of Springfield where Cote had worked for four years.

The victim filed a civil lawsuit against the Dominican Order and the archdiocese in 2005. The Archdiocese of Washington subsequently was released of any liability by the victim. There was no evidence of negligence by the archdiocese and the archdiocese was not part of a financial settlement between the victim and the Dominicans.

Cote worked at two parishes part-time in the archdiocese: Mother Seton Parish in Germantown, from 1999 to 2002 and St. Jane Frances de Chantal Parish in Bethesda, from 1997 to 1999.

It is our prayer that no child is ever harmed, particularly by someone in ministry, and we pray for healing for all those affected. We ask that anyone who may have been abused to contact the Archdiocese of Washington’s Director of Child Protection Services at 301-853-5328 and the Montgomery County Police Family Crimes Division at 240-773-5400 so the person may be held accountable and we may provide assistance. The Archdiocese of Washington has had a Child Protection Policy for 22 years; it is online at www.adw.org.

Media: The Dominicans may be reached at 212-737-5757.

Contact:
Susan Gibbs
Director of Communications
301-853-4517
[email protected]