FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — A retired priest who once oversaw the safety of children in a Catholic diocese in the Washington suburbs has been charged with sexually assaulting a child, Virginia’s attorney general announced Tuesday.
A Fairfax County grand jury indicted Terry Specht, 68, of Donegal, Pennsylvania, last week on two felony counts related to sexual abuse of a child under 13, The Washington Post reported. According to the indictment, the assault took place in 2000, when Specht was chaplain and assistant principal at St. Paul VI Catholic High School.
Specht “maintains his innocence,” Fairfax public defender Dawn Butorac said. “He’s a retired priest, being put through this 21 years after the alleged event.”
Specht was the director of the Arlington Diocese Office of Child Protection and Safety between 2004 and 2011. In this role, he was responsible for policy and instruction but didn't oversee sexual abuse investigations or assign priests to churches, Catholic Diocese of Arlington spokesperson Amber Roseboom said.
The complainant came forward in 2019, the attorney general’s office said. The case is one of three church abuse investigations the office is pursuing.
In 2012, Specht was accused of sexually abusing a teenage boy in the late 1990s, when he was a parochial vicar at St. Mary of Sorrows Church in Fairfax. He has previously denied those allegations and was never charged. The Diocese review board found the allegation to be inconclusive, Roseboom said. But he was placed on administrative leave in 2012 and took medical retirement. Officials have permanently removed his right to act as a priest.
“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,” Roseboom said.
A trial is scheduled for October.