Archdiocese of Washington
Assigned as follows:
- St. Thomas More Catholic Church (Washington, DC)
- St. Bernardine of Siena (Suitland, MD)
- St. Columba’s Episcopal Church (Washington, DC)
Summary of Abuse Allegations against Father Robert Joseph Petrella:
According to media reports, an allegation that Father Robert Joseph Petrella sexually abused two brothers was first reported to the Archdiocese of Washington in 1966. He was sent to psychiatric treatment and evaluation and eventually returned to ministry.
Between the mid-1960s and 1988, the Archdiocese of Washington sent him away three more times for treatment following allegations of abuse, allowing him each time to return to parish work.
In 1989, Father Petrella was permanently removed after more allegations of sexual abuse were reported.
In January 1997, Father Petrella was indicted and convicted for sexually abusing a 10-year-old boy in the late 1970s, when he was pastor of a Washington church. He was accused of molesting the boy during car trips from the St. Thomas More parish in Washington to the boy’s home from November 1977 to December 1978, prosecutors said.
In September 1997, Father Petrella was sentenced to two years in prison, but it was suspended to six months. He served just 7 days after a motion was granted that he could take care of his sick mother. The judge also ordered Father Petrella into a home detention program under supervised probation in Pennsylvania for three years. The Pennsylvania probation officials say they have no record of him in their system.
In April 2003, Father Petrella was laicized. It was in June 2003, that he admitted to sexually molesting three altar boys at an Oxon Hill parish in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He was convicted of unnatural and perverted sex practices against children. Father Petrella was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but as part of a plea bargain it was reduced to eighteen months. He served nine months.
According to the Archdiocese of Washington, Father Petrella abused at least 25 known victims, the most of all the accused priests. At least one claim was included in a $1.3million settlement in December 2006.
His name does not appear on any sex-offender registry.
As of September 2008, he has been living at his mother’s home in North Arlington, Maryland.
In October 2018, Father Petrella’s name appeared publicly on the Archdiocese of Washington’s list of clergy credibly accused of sex abuse of minors.
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