Removed From Job After Suit Alleging Abuse|
Former Altar Boy at Germantown
Catholic Church Says Cleric Molested Him During 2001-02
By Caryle Murphy
Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 17, 2005
A Roman Catholic
priest was removed from his job at a Rhode Island parish after being accused yesterday
in a D.C. Superior Court lawsuit of sexually abusing a Germantown teenager over
several months in 2001 and 2002.
The Rev. Aaron Joseph Cote, 54, associate
pastor at St. Pius V Church in Providence, was put on administrative leave, according
to the vicar provincial of Cote's religious order, the Dominicans. "He'll
be marking time until this is resolved," said the Rev. Raymond Daley.
removal from ministry came hours after the parents of the alleged victim, Brandon
Rains, announced at a sidewalk news conference that their son, now 18, had filed
a lawsuit against Cote.
The conference, which was arranged by the victims'
advocacy group Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, took place outside
the downtown Washington hotel where U.S. bishops were holding their semiannual
The parents, Toni and Joseph McMorrow, who live in Frederick, said
they had been appalled to discover that their son's alleged abuser was still in
ministry with responsibility for youth ministry. "Our purpose is just to
protect other kids," said Toni McMorrow.
"The bishops are not
following their own policy," said Barbara Blaine, president of the advocacy
group. "They promised . . . that if a priest is credibly accused, he will
be removed from ministry, pending an investigation, and that did not happen here."
a former altar boy at Mother Seton parish in Germantown, where Cote was associate
pastor in 2001 and 2002, alleges in his suit that the priest "engaged in
unpermitted and harmful sexual conduct and contact" with Rains when he was
14 and 15 years old, causing him "severe and permanent emotional distress."
suit also names the Washington archdiocese and the Dominican order as defendants,
alleging that their negligence allowed Cote to harm Rains.
spokeswoman for the Washington archdiocese, said archdiocesan officials first
became aware of Rains's allegations in August 2003. They informed Montgomery County
police and its child protective services and offered help to Rains, who was in
therapy at the time, she added.
The archdiocese also informed the Dominican
order, which removed Cote from ministry and sent him to a treatment center for
psychological evaluation. But in October 2003, "we were informed by Montgomery
County authorities that the case was not moving forward," Gibbs said. "They
had attempted to meet with Brandon, and that had not happened."
McMorrow said that her son, then living in Florida, spoke with police on the phone
in 2003 but did not have a personal interview with investigators until March 2004.
Baur, spokeswoman for Montgomery police, said she could not comment on whether
police had interviewed Rains or provide other details of the investigation. She
said the case "remains open, but the investigation was suspended pending
further information. . . . Our detectives would welcome anyone who has any information
regarding these crimes to contact [us]."
Cote also served in two other
area churches: St. Dominic Church and Priory in the District and St. Jane Frances
de Chantal Church in Bethesda.
At the news conference, Joe McMorrow acknowledged
that "police said they didn't have enough evidence for a criminal prosecution."
said the Dominican order informed Montgomery child protection officials and police
that they were restoring Cote to active ministry in October 2003, after his psychological
Two months ago, Joe McMorrow said, he contacted the archdiocese
seeking information on what had happened to Cote. In 2003 "we were assured
a thorough investigation would be undertaken, and then we heard nothing,"
The case illustrates how investigations of abuse can become more
complicated when the alleged perpetrator belongs to a religious order. Under church
regulations, it is the order, not the diocese, that has responsibility for disciplining
its members, Gibbs said.
Cote did not reply to an e-mail seeking comment,
and an official at St. Pius V Church referred a reporter to Daley, the Dominican
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