Bungled Investigation: Diocese of Arlington Demonstrates How *Not* To Handle Abuse Allegations

Rev. Ronald Escalante

Rev. Ronald Escalante of St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Purcellville, Virginia

Last November, the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, called law enforcement after it received a complaint of "potential inappropriate contact" against one of its popular parish priests, Rev. Ronald Escalante of St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Purcellville.

Law enforcement investigated the claim and then announced a month later that they found nothing criminal at all. Yet today, seven months after the fact, Fr. Escalante is still not back at his parish, and frustrated families want him back.

What is going on?

Payback by a problem employee?

Although the Diocese of Arlington admits that no criminal behavior has been uncovered, it claims that it still needs to investigate multiple allegations by multiple individuals that Escalante may have committed "inappropriate behavior that, if true, would require serious disciplinary action."

However, parishioners assert that the entire affair is the result of an effort by one rogue church employee, James Blankenship, whom they claim drummed up the accusations against Escalante after Blankenship was allegedly caught misusing parish resources.

Michael Hichborn – president and founder of the Lepanto Institute as well as a leading figure in the pro-life movement – has spearheaded a public effort for the parishioners' cause by publishing a pair of articles as well as a very compelling video about the whole episode.

In the video, multiple parents claim that Blankenship attempted to recruit them to make accusations of inappropriate behavior – such as improper touching and "leering" – against Escalante. For example, here is one parishioner's story:

Kimberly Hall : St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Purcellville, Virginia

Kimberly Hall, St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Purcellville, Virginia:
"[Parish employee Blankenship] actually tried to recruit me to state that I thought that Father was inappropriately hugging my children and me, which was incorrect.
And I refused to take part in it." (Lepanto Institute video)

Parishioners have also aired frustrations that they have repeatedly tried to contact the diocese with information about the accusations – via phone calls, letters, and emails – but they have been ignored or dismissed. The Diocese of Arlington has been woefully mute in the whole matter except for a press statement back in April that punched back against local reporting on the case, claiming that the reporting was "unprofessional." Another statement a couple weeks later basically reiterated the same thing.

The diocese also claims that it has received no firsthand information from anyone that the accusations against Escalante are fabricated. Yet this claim flies in the face of not only the video posted by the Lepanto Institute but also an impassioned letter written by a female teenager who says that a despondent friend has admitted to fabricating an accusation against Fr. Escalante.

Dear Diocese of Arlington:

If there is one thing that is clear in this entire episode, it is that the diocese has not served the parishioners at St. Francis de Sales Church well at all. Parishioners deserve better.

Here, the diocese can take two simple measures to improve its transparency and attempt to placate disturbed parishioners, all while preserving confidentiality:

1. While emphasizing that Fr. Escalante denies all impropriety, the diocese should reveal the general nature and scope of the allegations against the priest, telling how many accusers there are and what is being alleged.

2. The diocese should provide a general date for when it expects to announce the conclusion of its investigation.

Dragging "investigations" on for months and leaving parishioners in the dark to speculate only exacerbates matters. We have seen this frustration far too often in recent years. Truth and justice demand that dioceses conduct these affairs far differently than they currently do.

Comments

  1. Herb Zeller says:

    As is often standard procedure, Fr. Escalante is thrown under the bus by church authorites — pulled from his position on the basis of unconfirmed allegations, his good name tarnished if not destroyed.  At the same time the accusers' names are kept confidential, protected from public opinion and the possibility of evidence coming forward that either supports the priest or impunes the accuser.  This is patently unfair. 

    The church is very poorly equipt at conductiing criminal investigations that are fair, timely and complete.  Crimes are the work of law enforcement authorities and all such allegations should be immediately turned over to them.

    • Dan says:

      How many catholic priests and bishops have lived in denial of their transgressions, only to years later admit guilt to their crimes? Wow! As long as the Statute of Limitations has passed and the Church comes out unscathed, send him to another parish so he can rape their innocent children and women in complete secrecy. Deny, deny, deny and deny some more. Until you're caught red handed. Hopefully you're old enough to inherit full retirement from the Church and live out the rest of your life in peaceful penance and prayer. Ultimate hypocrisy. Wake up catholics!

    • LLC says:

      Dan,

      “How many catholic priests and bishops have lived […] peaceful penance and prayer.” = as almost all your posts, this is irrelevant to this discussion. This post is about Fr. Escalante who, incidentally, has been exonerated thanks to a police investigation.

      “Wake up catholics!” = Catholics are watchful (Mark 13:35). We are fully aware of past issues and how they have been addressed. Meanwhile, your church of one is sound asleep at the wheel…

    • Dan says:

      LLC, Did you even read my first sentence? Many priests and bishops claim they're innocent, only to later admit to guilt for the crimes they claimed innocence. I don't care if a corrupt police investigation cleared the criminal. Sounds like there are enough accusers that he's going to turn up guilty for some of it if not all of it. In S.F. there was a priest that went into the dressing room of a16 year old boy and lucky the father was there to call the cops. Cops came and said since there was "No harm, no foul". What?!? Oh! Grown men are always going into dressing rooms with minor boys. What was he doing? Offering to help him undress? There has been a long standing of prosecuters and cops letting the clergy creeps of your Church slide. I hope with these Grand Jury investigations and D.A's that the truth finally will come to light.  servant

    • LLC says:

      Dan,

      This post is not about an accused priest claiming innocence. It’s about an accused priest cleared by a police investigation but not reinstated by his diocese, hence your first sentence is of no value.

      “I don't care if a corrupt police investigation cleared the criminal” = nor do I care about your asinine statements. If you have proofs that the Arlington Police is corrupted, please bring them to the pertinent authorities. If not, you should be ashamed of tainting our Law enforcement agencies. Furthermore, having Fr. Escalante been cleared, you have committed libel.

      “Sounds like there are enough accusers that he's going to turn up guilty for some of it if not all of it” = quantity does not necessarily equal quality. Not having firsthand information, I would wait for the Diocese final decision before assuming guilt or innocence.

      “Grown men are always going into dressing rooms with minor boys” = correct; doctors, coaches, family members, and so on and so forth. Was the dressing room in the sacristy, where the altar boys get ready? Furthermore, can you provide any evidence that 1) this has actually happened and, 2) the priest had illicit intentions? If not, this equals to the “paraphrases” of the alleged quotes from Pope Francis, which turned out to be an absolute distortion of something said by a completely different person, in a totally different contest. Ergo, it's a lie.

  2. LLC says:

    HZ,

    “…Fr. Escalante is thrown under the bus by church authorities…” = I wouldn’t describe the diocese’s behavior, in this specific case, with such negative terms. Slow and overly cautious, perhaps. Because of the biased Media reports and the general negative view of the Church when it comes to these issues, in my opinion is it better to err on the side of caution.

    Similarly, the accusers’ names should be kept confidential, at least until the police and the internal investigations are resolved. After that, if the accuses turned out to be fabricated (as it appears to be the case), it would be fair for the diocese and for Fr. Escalante to seek reparation publicly, while keeping a civilized tone. The Church must offer an example by openly admitting her torts but also by pursuing justice when wrongly accused. The former, she has profusely done. The latter, she is still timidly learning.

    I do agree, however, with TMR’s suggestions to the diocese. Procrastination and secrecy only exacerbate an already loaded situation. If the diocese ought to be applauded for the quick response to the original accusations, it also must be pushed to conclude this painful affair as soon as possible and return Fr. Escalante to his flock.

  3. Joanne says:

    The diocese needs to be cognizant that general morale of all diocesan priests plummets during times like this. 

    • Dan says:

      And the "general morale of all diocesan priests" should "plummet", seeing what has transpired in their Church. And all bishops, especially the pope, cardinals, jesuits, monkeys, deacons and all lay catholics should bow their heads in shame for being connected to such an organization of such wickedness and horrific evil. What does it take for you all to understand that an idolatrous church of goddess worship, would lead the weak into disgusting perversions against precious innocent children? Duh! Romans 1:18-32

      The "Media" is not to blame. The culture is not to blame. Anti-catholics are not to blame. All excusing and blind catholics, willing to close their eyes to the truth, are to share all the blame. So help you, God! That you might someday remove the blinders from your eyes.

    • LLC says:

      Dan,

      “And the "general morale of all diocesan priests" should "plummet" = In truth, maintaining an upward attitude during trying times is, at times, difficult. Yet, Catholics (and priests especially) have Jesus’ assurance (Matthew 5:11-12) that while we have been, are and will be insulted, persecuted and falsely accused in this world, “…great is [our] reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets”.

      “All excusing and blind Catholics, willing to close their eyes to the truth, are to share all the blame” = correct. Fortunately, they are few and very far between. Virtually all Catholics, starting with Pope Francis, have demonstrated to have what it takes to address these issues and make sure they won’t happen again. Can you say the same about your church of one?

      “So help you, God!” = how important it is to correctly place commas in a sentence…

    • Dan says:

      How can those who pervert the flesh, pervert the truth and pervert all that is Godly, claim "Christ's assurance" that they are the "insulted, persecuted and falsely accused in this world". You have now connected me to the "Westboro Baptist" cult, wickedly persecuting me and now claiming you creeps are the persecuted. You sure have alot of nerve, troll creep. Let me know if I used my commas properly, grammar pig.  servant of the Lord

    • Dan says:

      LLC, And yes, you are one of the many blind and worst excusers of the wicked in your Church. It has nothing to do with how your clergy has "address[ed] these issues", these many crimes of perversions should have never happened to a church claiming to be God's Church. And they have "demonstrated" very little in regards to changing their evil ways and continue protecting the creeps of the Church and these issues will continue to happen. You can count on it. Quit playing the same old games and assist authorities to prosecute the creeps of your church or nothing will ever change.

    • LLC says:

      Dan,

      “…wickedly persecuting me…” = interesting. How? I don’t know you nor your church of one, nor I have any direct knowledge of its value system, if there’s one. It is you who actually have knowledge of my beliefs (although I should say that you think you know, while in reality have no clue whatsoever about the teachings of my Church), and wish nothing less than to see the Catholic Church disappear. Spoiler alert: it will never happen, as Jesus promised in Matthew 16:18.

      You continuously use foul language towards posters here and the Catholic Church in general, whilst squeaking like a (you guess it) a pig when at the receiving end. Jesus foretold it in Matthew 5:11-12.

      You routinely make up false claims, misquote and trivialize, and close both eyes and ears when shown reality and truth (Mark 8:18).

      If you want to see the real persecutor, look in a mirror, if you can stomach it.

  4. Dan says:

    "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many." Matthew 7:13  many – As in say some 1.2 billion catholics?

    "But small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life, and only a few find it…." Matthew 7:14  small and narrow – As say in Dan's "church of one" joined by other true believers?

    LLC, You have absolutely no rights as a heathen belonging to an apostate Christian false religion to quote Biblical verse against a true believer. Furthermore, you should not use the Word to describe how Jesus will protect your pagan idol-worshiping Church. You have no "direct knowledge" of the "church of one" "value system", because you have been blinded by the Lord from knowing anything of the truth. How can someone who defends and excuses the pedophiles and perverts of his church know anything in regards to the wonderful facets of an Almighty Perfect God and Savior.

    Try saying your repetitive 200 Hail Mary's to your goddess and maybe she'll present herself to you in a vision telling you to bow and worship her so you can be forgiven for your ignorance. Have a blessed day, heathen!

    You should research what the internet says regarding grammar trolls. Your biggest problem you have is the nasty things I say regarding your religion are usually just true facts. Whereas you insult me, persecute me and falsely say all kinds of evil against me using lying accusations, although I have not found you much different from all your fellow catholic liars and evil clergy. Matthew 5:11

     

     

    • Dan says:

      "For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God?" Psalm 18:31

      Peter never was a pope, or your first pope. He is not the Rock upon which your heathen Church was built. He may someday be one of the boulders sent from Heaven to crush your Church. God and Jesus are coming soon to put an end to the corruption and wickedness found in your Church, and it won't be to cleanse the Church, but to destroy it. Stop quoting Biblical verse that does not pertain to your Church, but to God's True Church, of which you have no clue.  servant

    • Dan says:

      By the way, I know much more than I would like to know about the false "teachings of [your] church" and I wish I knew less of all the evil that has transpired within and without it's walls. So sickening it would make any decent person puke.

    • Dan says:

      Peter referring to Jesus, "The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone," and, "A stone of stumbling and a rock [petra] of offense." They stumble because they disobey the message – and to this they were appointed. 1 Peter 2:8

      So Peter himself is calling Jesus, "A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense."

      LLC, I understand why you try so hard to accuse me of "ignorance of the Scriptures", hoping that catholics or readers in this forum will ignore the verses I quote, but it is for this very reason that you prove your ignorance of Scriptures. How can children of the darkness understand the things of the light?

      "Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership can righteousness have with wickedness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness?" 2 Cor 6:14

      "Have no fellowship with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them." Eph 5:11

      How can the righteous see eye to eye with the sexually immoral and their excusers and liars. We will never agree on Scripture meaning, because spiritually speaking, we belong to completely opposite belief systems. Mine, Bible following and believing in God's truth. Yours, absolutely false and taught by blatant hypocrites. Best thing you could do is throw in the towel, because you've hitched your wagon to a Church of Hypocrisy. Sorry for my need to speak the truth.  servant of the Almighty

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