Former pastor is accused of abusing boy in early 1990s

In 2002, priest admitted to being with prostitute

April 05, 2004|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore County priest who resigned in 2002 after filing a false carjacking report to cover up a night with a male prostitute has been accused of sexually abusing a boy while he was pastor of St. Clement I Roman Catholic Church in Lansdowne, the Archdiocese of Baltimore announced yesterday.

The county state's attorney's office and the archdiocese are investigating the allegation that Steven P. Girard abused the boy on church grounds in the early 1990s, said Sean Caine, an archdiocesan spokesman. No charges have been filed.

Arnold M. Zerwitz, an attorney who represents Girard, said his client has "emphatically and completely denied" the allegation. Zerwitz said church officials have not told his client who made the accusation, leaving Girard in an awkward and unfair position.

Cardinal William H. Keeler issued a statement yesterday saying he is committed to being "open and accountable."

"We are deeply sorry for the pain suffered by survivors of abuse due to the actions of clergy, and nothing is more important than protecting our children," Keeler said. "There is no place in the priesthood or religious life for those who harm children."

Girard was sentenced in 2002 to one year of supervised probation after admitting that he made a false carjacking report to cover up a night spent with a male prostitute.

He also was ordered to complete treatment at a Catholic psychiatric facility in Silver Spring as a condition of being granted probation before judgment.

The recent allegation of abuse surfaced in February, Caine said, but prosecutors asked the archdiocese not to disclose it until yesterday.

"Our primary focus is learning if there are other victims," Caine said.

The archdiocese is not releasing the name of the accuser but said he is no longer a minor.

"We're going out of our way to protect his identity," Caine said.

Girard was assigned to St. Clement, a 2,000-member Lansdowne church, for 15 years before he was forced to resign.

According to documents in the 2002 case, Girard lied twice to police about the theft of his car after a male prostitute drove off with it from an Elkridge motel where they had spent the night.

Girard initially told police that a homeless couple had carjacked his vehicle when he stopped for gas at an Exxon station, but a station surveillance tape showed that his car never stopped there.

He then told police he spent the night drinking with the homeless couple, and that after he passed out, they stole his car.

But Girard later admitted to picking up a male prostitute, who took his car. Girard also admitted that he had picked up the same man for sex a year earlier.

According to the charging documents, Girard gave the man $60 to buy crack cocaine in Baltimore, and they smoked it together at the rectory before going to the motel.

Girard was not charged with drug violations. He was charged with filing a false report, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum $500 fine and six months in jail.

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