Letter to Parishioners of the Archdiocese

March 24, 2002

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

It is with much sadness that I write you today. As you know, the media these past few weeks have been filled with news of clergy misconduct. Each article, each letter, each interview brings new pain to each of us who so love our children, our priests and our Church. Our children have to be our priority and I can think of almost nothing more painful than to discover that a priest may have betrayed the trust placed in him with children in his care.

I have written about the topic twice now in the Catholic Standard, and I have spoken with and heard from so many of you who have expressed your sadness and pain over all that has occurred.

As you now know, the situation has touched close to home and I wanted to make sure you had the correct information about it. Ten days ago, the Archdiocese was contacted by two women regarding sexual misconduct that allegedly occurred between them and a priest here in Washington, between 1979 and 1984. The women were in grades 8-12 at the time. Consistent with Archdiocesan policy, the priest involved, Msgr. Russell Dillard, pastor of St. Augustine parish, has been placed on administrative leave. He has acknowledged that relationships did occur. The Archdiocese was going to make the announcement after Mass at St. Augustine’s today and give Monsignor the opportunity to address his parishioners personally. However, as the news began to reach some in his parish earlier this week, it seemed necessary to move up the announcement.

Consistent with the Archdiocesan child abuse policy, the allegations were reported to the authorities and Monsignor is receiving evaluation at a residential facility. The policy is in this week’s Catholic Standard and is online at the Archdiocesan website, under Communications. It is one of the most comprehensive and stringent in the nation and is designed to ensure that our children’s safety and well-being always come first.

I cannot express to you how deep my sorrow is at this time. Msgr. Dillard has been my friend, a most respected pastor and a leader in the community for many years. I pray for those who came forward after so many years of hurting that they may find healing at this time. I assure you that the Archdiocese has reached out to them pastorally. Second, I pray for Msgr. Dillard’s parishioners who love him and who now must struggle with this news. I ask your prayers for Msgr. Dillard, who needs our prayers at this time. Finally, you know that I pray for all of you and for the great priests of our archdiocese who strive daily to be a faithful witness to Christ that they may always be worthy of the trust of those in their care.

I want you to know that each of you is in my prayers. I ask you to join me this Holy Week in praying for all affected by this situation and for our beloved Church. I am

Devotedly yours in Christ,
Theodore Cardinal McCarrick
Archbishop of Washington

Susan Gibbs
Office of Communications
[email protected]