Priest in Arundel announces affair to parish, resigns

June 23, 1994|By Frank P. L. Somerville | Frank P. L. Somerville,Sun Staff Writer

In yesterday's editions, a priest who resigned his pastorate near Annapolis after admitting adultery with a parishioner was incorrectly identified. He is the Rev. James R. Schaefer.

The Sun regrets the error.

A senior Roman Catholic priest has resigned as pastor of a large congregation near Annapolis after disclosing an adulterous relationship with a recently divorced woman who was a Eucharistic minister.

The Rev. John R. Schaefer, 63, made the stunning announcement at all five Masses June 11 and 12 at St. Andrew by the Bay Church in Cape St. Claire. He had been a popular priest there since 1986, when he was assigned to lead the parish out of a scandal involving allegations that the previous pastor sexually abused boys.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

"Over the last two years, I have been growing in relationship with a woman in our parish," Father Schaefer told the congregation. "For the most part, it has been a celibate relationship. On a few occasions it has not. Some of you suspected this. It became a matter of public record these last two weeks."

He referred to the fact that he had been called as a witness in the divorce case, which the woman filed against her husband. That case was settled out of court recently.

As a Eucharistic minister, the woman, who Father Schaefer said remains his friend, assists at Mass by distributing Holy Communion. The priest said yesterday that he would begin a four-week period of reflection at an undisclosed seminary on Monday, during which he will try to decide whether to return to the active priesthood.

The previous pastor of the 1,500-member congregation was the Rev. William Q. Simms, who was never charged criminally but who was removed from the parish after sex-abuse allegations naming him became public.

The Baltimore archdiocese made secret out-of-court financial settlements with the families of two boys. Father Simms was reassigned to the tribunal at the Catholic Center in Baltimore, which hears requests for marriage annulments. Father Schaefer, Baltimore native who studied in Rome and at Princeton Theological Seminary and has a doctorate from Catholic University, was director of adult education for the archdiocese for eight years. In 1978, he was named pastor of St. Ann's Church in Hagerstown, where he remained until 1986.

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