By Michelle Boorstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 28, 2006; B02
A Jesuit priest who was a popular teacher for 14 years at Georgetown Preparatory School inappropriately touched a student at the prestigious Jesuit-run boys' school in North Bethesda, an investigation by Jesuit authorities found.
The Rev. Gary Orr, 52, left Georgetown Prep in June 2003 -- at the end of the school year when the alleged incident took place -- and is on a leave of absence from the order "to consider his future," said an April 7 letter from the Rev. Timothy B. Brown, the provincial, or head, of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus.
The letter was sent to parents and alumni, along with an April 10 letter from the Rev. William L. George, the school's president.
"I recognize that this news will be difficult for many members of our community," George wrote. "There are inevitable feelings of sadness, disbelief and anger, which are the same emotions I have been struggling with since first learning of the accusation."
Orr taught religion, Latin and theater at Georgetown Prep.
According to the school communications director, Brian Gnatt, the allegation was reported to school officials in May 2004, and Montgomery County police were notified immediately. Police filed no charges in the case, but it remains open, said police spokesman Derek Baliles, who declined to elaborate.
The province then opened an investigation early in 2005 and concluded that the student's allegation was "substantially true," Brown's letter said.
The student was a sophomore at the time of the incident, said Kate Pipkin, a spokeswoman for the Jesuits' regional headquarters in Baltimore.
However, a lawyer who represented Orr in the case said the school had done two investigations, in spring and fall 2003, and informed the teacher that he was innocent.
"Father Orr consistently denied the charges, and we were disappointed in the results reached by the [province] review board," William J. Murphy said yesterday.
Gnatt declined to comment on the apparent conflict, saying that "it seems in our best interest not to elaborate on these details."
The nature of the incident also wasn't clear. George's letter used the term "sexual abuse." Brown's letter said Orr was accused of "inappropriately touching" the student.
The allegation involved one student on one occasion and the contact was "uninvited," Pipkin said, declining to be more specific.
Orr left the school in spring 2003 because of unrelated "health issues," she said, and was on a sabbatical until January 2004, when the Archdiocese of Baltimore placed him at Loyola College. He worked there under supervision, she said, and was not allowed one-on-one contact with students.
Students who were close to Orr at Loyola were quoted in the student newspaper Tuesday as saying they knew nothing of the allegations against the priest, who was a retreat and prayer group coordinator for the campus ministry program.
"Father Orr had the biggest impact on me of anybody in my life," John Nagib told the Greyhound, the student newspaper. "He was awesome."