A retired Roman Catholic priest convicted of child sexual abuse in 1984 has been stripped of his clerical status by the Vatican at the request of Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde, the diocese announced yesterday.
The Rev. Andrew W. Krafcik, 77, who served "in limited ministry" from 1985 until his 1996 retirement, was informed Saturday "that he has been dismissed from the clerical state by a decision of the Holy Father," the diocese said.
The action is one of the most extreme punishments the Vatican can impose on its clerics. It means that Krafcik cannot celebrate Mass even privately, administer the sacraments, wear clerical garb or present himself as a priest.
Krafcik, who lives in Arlington, said in a telephone interview that he felt "terrible" about the action, which he considers unfair. "I was against it," he said. "I didn't want to get dismissed from the priesthood."
In the 50 years prior to 2002, 277 priests were laicized -- removed from their clerical status -- because of child sexual abuse, according to a definitive study of the problem conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice for the U.S. Catholic bishops.
That study, released in February, found that 163 priests asked to be laicized, and 114 were removed at the request of their superiors, according to the study's chief data analyst, Margaret Leland Smith.
Church experts said they expect to hear about an increasing number of such punishment as the cases resulting from the church's 2002 sex abuse scandal reach conclusions.
"The cases sent to Rome are now being processed -- and so resolved -- in greater numbers," the Rev. Ronny E. Jenkins, professor of canon law at Catholic University wrote in an e-mail. "So for that reason, the announcements might well increase when Rome determines laicization is a just response."
Two priests from the Washington Archdiocese were removed in recent years because of child abuse. Thomas Chleboski requested it immediately after being criminally charged in 1991, and Robert Petrella was laicized last year at the request of Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, an archdiocesan spokeswoman said.
In the Baltimore Archdiocese, Brian Cox was punished in the same way this year at the request of Cardinal William Keeler, an archdiocesan spokesman said.
Canon lawyer Jenkins said in an interview that not every case involving a pedophile priest warrants such a measure, although when a bishop requests it, "it's for a very serious matter."
The Arlington Diocese has received no other allegations of child abuse against Krafcik, either before or after the 1984 incident, according to diocesan spokesman Soren Johnson.
He declined to elaborate on why Loverde in 2002 asked the Vatican to remove Krafcik, one of nine priests credibly accused of child abuse in the past 30 years in the diocese, according to figures released by the diocese in February. He also declined to say if Loverde had requested the action for any other priests.
Loverde "asked me if I wanted to be laicized," Krafcik said. "I said no. He said he was going to make sure I would be laicized."
Krafcik said his 1984 misdemeanor conviction in Henrico Country arose from one incident in which he was accused of kissing a 12-year-old girl at a swimming pool near Richmond.
Krafcik, who was ordained in 1959, said he was working at St. Ann Parish in Arlington at the time of the offense. Confirming the diocesan assertion that he was ordered by the court to undergo counseling instead of being incarcerated, Krafcik said he was an outpatient for seven years at St. Luke Institute in Silver Spring, a church-sponsored facility for troubled priests. He said that he was treated with a drug that suppresses sexual arousal.
After his conviction, Krafcik was put on "limited ministry" in 1985 by then-Bishop John Keating, now deceased. He served as associate pastor of St. Leo the Great Parish in Fairfax from 1985 to 1996 and lived in retirement at Holy Family Parish in Dale City from 1996 to 2002.
Under church rules adopted by U.S. Catholic bishops in 2002 following the sex scandal, a bishop must remove from ministry any priest found to have committed even one instance of child abuse and inform the Vatican of this action.
The bishop has the option, but is not required, to request laicization for the priest.
Once the Vatican is informed, canon lawyer Jenkins said, Rome tells the bishop how to proceed, and other Vatican rules kick in. Under those rules, a priest can be laicized in one of three ways.
In cases of notorious or flagrant behavior, the pope can simply dismiss him. In other cases, an administrative process is undertaken by the bishop, and the priest, with his attorney, offers his side of the story. The bishop's findings and recommended penalty are then forwarded to Rome, which makes the final decision.
The third way involves a formal criminal trial before a three-judge panel, which forwards its verdict and recommended punishment to the Vatican for final action. The diocese declined to discuss which course it had followed.
Krafcik said that he has been receiving financial support and health insurance coverage from the diocese but whether that continues "will have to be worked out."
Diocesan spokesman Johnson wrote in an e-mail that "the diocese is working with Andrew Krafcik to assess his needs. . . . and, should the circumstances require, provide some assistance."