Former Delaware Catholic priest charged in 25-year-old child sex case

Former Delaware Catholic priest charged in 25-year-old child sex case

By Xerxes Wilson, January 31, 2018, DelawareOnline

In what appears to be a first, Delaware is prosecuting a former Catholic priest for "sexual intercourse" with a child more than 25 years ago.

John A. Sarro, 76,  a former priest with the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, was indicted this week by a New Castle County grand jury on charges of first-degree unlawful sexual intercourse and second-degree unlawful sexual contact, according to court records. 

Sarro was a priest in Bear and Bellefonte through much of the '80s and '90s. He was identified by diocese officials in 2006 as one of 20 local priests with "admitted, corroborated or otherwise substantiated" allegations of sexual abuse of minors against them. 

But the conduct that landed Sarro in that group is said to be separate from the current charge. 

His Monday indictment accuses him in the early 1990s of having "sexual intercourse" with a girl under the age of 16. Those crimes would have taken place when Sarro's was serving at St. Helena Parish in Bellefonte, though specifics of his relationship with the alleged victim, or her identity, are not detailed in court documents. 

"I can't recall all the circumstances, but it was simply a misunderstanding," said Sarro in a brief telephone interview Tuesday from his residence at an assisted living facility near Elkton. 

Sarro declined to go into detail about the accusations or answer questions about how he knew his accuser. 

Sarro's indictment states he intentionally had unlawful sexual contact with the girl by touching her breasts between September 1991 and August 1992. A separate charge states he "intentionally" engaged in "sexual intercourse, oral sex" with the girl between July 1993 and July 1994.

The indictment also describes the victim as "not the defendant's voluntary social companion." Further details have not been entered into court records.

Delaware Department of Justice Spokeswoman Nicole Magnusson declined to discuss the nature of the alleged crimes. A spokesperson for the Wilmington Diocese would not comment on the current charges.

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  • commented 2018-01-31 13:46:42 -0600
    A ‘Former’ priest is an easy target for Delaware! He won’t have Roman Catholic church behind him with all their money, power and influence. He will treated as a lone wolf sexual molester-not tied to any responsible supervising bishop. Why doesn’t Delaware indict some current priests and their bishop-that’s not so easy because now the defendant has the world’s most powerful organization backing him-that’s why. The diocese of Wilmington should also be indicted because he was a priest under their jurisdiction when the crimes occurred. But that won’t happen-too difficult.