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Wednesday, April 17, 2019
This is How You Smear a Good Priest! Bring Back Fr. Escalante!
Blue Ridge Leader 10 hours agoOur Towns, Top News0 Comments
By Valerie Cury
In November of 2018, Father Ronald S. Escalante, Pastor of Saint Francis de Sales Church in Purcellville, was placed on administrative leave by the Catholic Diocese of Arlington.
The church’s action followed a series of reports, from outside sources, that Father Escalante had been investigating financial irregularities at his church, and that individuals involved in the irregularities were targeting him for retribution in the form of claims that he had “boundary issues” with a particular parishioner. New evidence, based on interviews with three individuals who spoke to the Blue Ridge Leader under condition of anonymity, corroborate this.
The related timeline/sequence of events is as follows:
In late September 2018, church administrative/financial irregularities were brought to Father Escalante’s attention. Specifically, records showed an increase of 800 percent – several thousand dollars – in printing costs.
An investigation showed that an employee of the church was using church printing resources – including materials and copiers – for an outside company job.
The employee tried to persuade Father Escalante to let the matter slide. When that failed, it is alleged that that same employee tried to recruit parishioners to claim that Father Escalante was “inappropriately hugging” certain parishioners.
As reported by individuals who were solicited, but who do not want their names mentioned, all except one family refused to make false claims.The family that did make the allegedly false claims met with the assistant pastor in his office along with the employee that was engaging in the improper use of church printing resources.
As a result of the allegations, the Catholic Diocese of Arlington placed Father Escalante on administrative leave. According to the diocese website: “Bishop Michael F. Burbidge has placed Father Ronald S. Escalante, Pastor of Saint Francis de Sales Church, Purcellville, on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation of alleged boundary violations involving a minor and adults which transgress the Code of Conduct for Clergy in the Diocese of Arlington. In accord with diocesan policy, these allegations were reported to local law enforcement and considered by the Diocesan Review Board.”
The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office was made aware of the allegations. But, just days after the church’s announcement that Father Escalante was on administrative leave, the diocese website noted: “The Diocese of Arlington has received the news that Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office will not press criminal charges against Father Escalante …”
The new information that has surfaced relates to conversations and a face-to-face interview with a friend (and her parents present) of the young woman, who originally accused Father Escalante of improper conduct.
According to the friend, the young woman who accused Father Escalante of improper conduct had been pressured by her family into lying – making up a story about Escalante.
The friend recounted the following:
“It was in January after school and before practices. I was with my friends talking in the ladies’ locker room. There was a group of us, and my one friend [the original accuser] was crying. She told us she was under immense stress. We all encouraged her to talk to us, or at least go and talk to her counselor. My friend swore us to secrecy.”
The friend continued: “She [the original accuser] proceeded to tell us that it was very serious and confidential, and that if we told anyone she and her family would be in a lot of trouble.”
The friend then said that the accuser’s parents asked for her to receive an “anointing” by Father Escalante after sustaining a sport-related injury.
There was no allegation of inappropriate behavior by Father Escalante during or immediately following the anointing that occurred on Sept. 26, 2018. After the anointing, the mother sent a thank you email to Father Escalante and four other Church employees, including the assistant pastor, on Oct 1, 2018, stating the following, “Thanks, again for your prayers. It is so appreciated!! And thanks so much for the Anointing of the Sick, Father Escalante. Within 24 hours of that, [the teen] had a major turn around, and was no longer needing major medication. It was really amazing.”
Then eight weeks later, on Nov. 20, 2018, the same family made their allegations to the Diocese. On Nov. 21, Father Escalante was instructed to vacate the rectory at SFDS.
But, as the friend recounted, the young woman making the accusations said that “six weeks later, her parents came out of the parish office after a meeting with the assistant pastor, and stated that they were now very upset, and that for the greater good of the parish, they ‘needed her [their daughter] to say that her pastor crossed a boundary when he anointed her in the back of the church … ‘my parents were making me say something happened that did not happen.’ ”
The accusation was made despite both parents being present at the anointing.
According to the friend, the young woman’s mother “also instructed her daughter to go to the school clinic multiple times a week to talk about this violating issue. The frequent trips to the clinic were causing her additional stress because she had to miss class and school work. She also said that her mother was upset, since there were supposed to be other families in this with them, but no others would go along.”
The friend, who is not a member of the church, with her parents’ support, came to the Blue Ridge Leader because, as she said, “It was my duty to always rise up and share the truth. I know that not coming forward with this information is morally wrong.”
The Blue Ridge Leader called Angela Pellerano, Director of Media Relations for the Catholic Diocese of Arlington and asked for a comment, on the revelation that the young woman making the accusations against Father Escalante had told her friends that her parents made her make up the accusations. Pellerano said she would get “right back” to us with a comment, but has not done so as of press time.
Saint Francis de Sales Church is providing parishioners with updates on Father Escalante’s administrative leave status.