The Archdiocese of Baltimore said Monday it has relieved a priest of his duties at Our Lady of Pompei in Highlandtown following accusations by a parishioner of abuse in the 1970s.
The alleged victim was not identified. The person accuses Father Luigi Esposito, 77, of abuse beginning when the alleged victim was 14 and occurring multiple times while the person was a minor.
Esposito denies the allegations, according to Sean Caine, a spokesman for the archdiocese. He said the priest was being cared for per church law at a private location and would not be available for comment.
Caine said the alleged victim made a complaint to the church earlier this month and the church reported it to the Baltimore Police Department. He said church officials did not approach Esposito so they would not interfere with any investigation.
No charges against Esposito appear in online records.
Police gave the church permission to address the allegations with Father Esposito on May 16, according to Caine. He said officials had a meeting May 17 where the priest denied the abuse.
He was suspended from ministry and removed from his priestly faculties pending the outcome of the archdiocese’s investigation.
The church informed the congregation May 20.
“This is the typical practice for us when we receive an allegation and we can’t rule it out,” Caine said. “We speak with the person accused and then publicly discuss the allegations in hopes of learning more information to help us make a final determination… This gives us time to conduct an investigation without worry that anyone else is being harmed.”
Caine said there have been no other similar allegations against Esposito before or since the announcement. The church has no timeline for resolving the matter.
Another priest who was already in place at the church will take over Esposito’s duties, Caine said. That priest speaks Spanish, as the majority of the parishioners are Hispanic.
Esposito was ordained a priest of the Congregation of the Mission of St. Vincent de Paul, a religious order also known as the Vincentians, in Naples, Italy, in 1964. He came to Highlandtown when a majority of parishioners were Italian.
He served as associate pastor of Our Lady of Pompei from 1964 to 1984, then as pastor from 1987 to the present. He was a teacher, coach and athletic director of the Our Lady of Pompei High School from 1964 to 1987.
He was an associate pastor at the church when the alleged abuse occurred. Caine would not say whether the alleged victim was a church member or a student at the affiliated school, which is now closed.