The Roman Catholic pastor of a large Baltimore church has been stripped of his right to offer Mass and perform the sacraments because of "very, very credible evidence" that he sexually abused several boys more than 15 years ago, the archdiocese announced yesterday.
Cardinal William H. Keeler accepted the resignation of the Rev. Charles O. Rouse as pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church in Brooklyn at the end of last month. The 45-year-old priest, who was ordained in Rome in 1976, had been pastor of the South Baltimore church since 1992.
For three years beginning in 1990, he was pastor of another large parish, St. Anthony of Padua on Frankford Avenue in Northeast Baltimore's Gardenville section.
Father Rouse is on a leave of absence at an undisclosed evaluation and treatment center, William Blaul, spokesman for the archdiocese, said yesterday. He said the pastor had begun his second leave of absence from St. Rose of Lima for treatment of alcoholism in February.
"During the course of that treatment," the spokesman said, "the archdiocese of Baltimore learned that Father Rouse inappropriately touched several minors approximately 15 to 20 years ago. As required by Maryland law, these incidents were promptly reported to the state's attorney."
The state's attorney's office in Baltimore would neither confirm nor deny yesterday that an investigation of Father Rouse is under way.
During the period when the abuse is alleged to have occurred -- from 1976, when he was ordained at the North American College in Rome, to 1981 -- Father Rouse was associate pastor of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church on East Baltimore Street, across from Patterson Park. No subsequent incidents have come to light yet, according to the archdiocese, which is continuing its investigation.
Father Rouse's next two parish assignments, between 1981 and 1990, were at St. Mark's in Catonsville and at St. Isaac Jogues in the Carney section of Baltimore County. Mr. Blaul said the priest's reputation was that of "a good pastor, a doer, who got things done."
An archdiocesan team told parishioners at St. Rose of Lima about the cardinal's decision in a meeting Sunday afternoon. The Rev. Joseph O'Meara, who until recently was administrator of St. Cecilia's in Northwest Baltimore, has been named temporary administrator of the Brooklyn parish.
In accordance with "policies and procedures regarding sexual abuse," Mr. Blaul said, "any person who suspects or alleges" abuse of a child by Father Rouse or any other priest, deacon, employee or volunteer of the archdiocese is encouraged to report it to one of three church officials designated by Cardinal Keeler to take the information. They are Monsignor W. Francis Malooly at 547-5446, Ronald J. Valenti at 547-5383 and Sheila Kelly at 547-5425.
Father Rouse is the 12th priest publicly linked to sexual abuse of minors by the Baltimore archdiocese since 1987.