Gay Episcopal priest admits to molestation charges

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com December 27 2002 1:00 AM ET

The pastor of an Episcopal church in Provincetown, Mass., has resigned and left town after admitting he sexually molested a teenage boy more than 25 years ago while assigned to a Maryland parish, according to The Boston Globe.

The Reverend Andrew Barasda was suspended Friday, when church officials confronted him about an allegation of abuse, which he acknowledged was true, said Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts spokesman Kenneth Arnold.

Barasda, 65, who had been at St. Mary's since 1998, quit the priesthood Monday and left Provincetown, Arnold said. Arnold called the allegations credible and detailed. "There was no evidence that we would have expected anything like that," Arnold said. "It's just not a very common form of misconduct in our church."

On Thursday, a 48-year-old man told the Baltimore diocese that he was molested by Barasda, who was a priest in the victim's parish. The abuse allegedly started in 1966, when the victim was 14 years old, and continued for two years, Arnold said.

Episcopal Church rules dictate that a clergy member is confronted by a bishop when abuse claims are made. The bishop asks if the clergy member admits or denies the charges. If charges are denied, the clergy member is subject to an ecclesiastical trial. Since Barasda admitted to the abuse, he was given three days to consider resigning, Arnold said. On Monday, Barasda signed a renunciation of his priesthood. "He's no longer a priest," Arnold said. "We didn't force him to do that. It was voluntary."

There have been just two similar abuse allegations involving minors made against clergy in the past two decades, Arnold said, and no previous allegations against Barasda. "It was a surprise to the parish. He seems to have had a lot of presence in the community," Arnold said.

Episcopal priests may marry, and in some dioceses, including Massachusetts, may be openly gay. According to the Cape Cod Times, which first reported the news of Barasda's departure, he has publicly acknowledged he is gay.