Second priest resigns as new allegations in Richmond diocese

Second priest resigns as new allegations in Richmond diocese

Credit: AP

Second priest resigns as new allegations in Richmond diocese


by and Associated Press

Posted on August 9, 2002 at 12:00 AM

Updated Friday, Oct 30 at 3:03 PM

(Richmond-AP) -- The Catholic Diocese of Richmond says more allegations of sexual abuse in southern Virginia are coming to light.

A diocese spokesman said there are at least two other allegations involving priests currently in the church -- one involving a victim who now lives in Williamsburg. No other details were released during a Friday afternoon news conference.

Diocese spokesman Rev. Pasquale J. Apuzzo said other allegations of sexual abuse by priests in the diocese involve men who are now dead.

And as 13News first reported Thursday, a second priest in the Catholic Diocese of Richmond has resigned.

According to the diocese, Rev. John P. Blankenship sexually abused a 14-year-old male parishoner in 1982 while serving as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Prince George County. Bishop Walter Sullivan says he learned of the abuse in 1988 and that Blankenship was placed on administrative leave and required to get therapy.

Blankenship had also served at St. Mary's Star of the Sea in Hampton near Ft. Monroe in the late 1960's; Sacred Heart Church in Winchester; St. Agnes, Arlington; St. Mary, Richmond; and St. John, Highland Springs.

His last assignment was as prison chaplain at the federal corrections facility in Petersburg, a position he held for nearly two decades. That's the position from which he's resigned. According to the diocese, Sullivan allowed him to continue in that role "because he would have no direct contact with minors."

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Rev. Blankenship's action follows Tuesday night's resignation of Father Julian Goodman from his Charlottesville parish.

Sullivan met with Blankenship Tuesday and ordered his resignation effective Friday, the diocese said.


Father John P. Blankenship, a priest of the Diocese of Richmond for 39 years, has resigned from his position of Catholic Chaplain at the Petersburg Federal Correctional Center and from active priestly ministry. In 1982, while serving as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in New Bohemia, Father Blankenship sexually abused a 14 year old male parishioner.

Bishop Walter Sullivan, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, learned of the abuse in 1988. He immediately placed Father Blankenship on administrative leave and sent him for 7 months of treatment at Saint Luke's Institute in Silver Spring, Maryland. For the next six years, Father Blankenship took part in outpatient therapy with Saint Luke's.

Father Blankenship has served as chaplain at the Federal prison in Petersburg for 19 years. Bishop Sullivan allowed Father Blankenship to continue this particular ministry because he would have no direct contact with minors. His ministry at the prison was most valuable in responding to the spiritual needs of inmates.

Bishop Sullivan has responded forthrightly in applying the principles voted on by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Dallas this June. The bishop has placed Father Blankenship into retirement at age 65. He may not say public mass and will not wear the Roman collar in public.

Bishop Sullivan met with Father Blankenship on Tuesday, August 6 and made his retirement effective as of Friday, August 9, 2002. Father Blankenship was sincerely remorseful and had apologized years ago to the victim. He has paid for the victim''s college education and the costs of counseling.