Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Former Williamsburg priest named on Diocese list detailing ‘credible’ sexual abuse

GuernseyTingle received a design award for its work on Saint Bede Catholic Church (Sarah Fearing/WYDaily)
Saint Bede Catholic Church (Sarah Fearing/WYDaily)

On Wednesday, the Catholic Diocese of Richmond made waves when it published a list of 42 names of clergy with “credible and substantiated” allegations of sexual abuse involving minors.

And one name has local connections.

Rev. Msgr. Joseph Thang Xuan Pham was a parochial vicar at St. Bede Catholic Church from 1985 to 1988, his first assignment after being ordained, according to an online biography.

Pham’s name appears on the Catholic Diocese of Richmond’s list of clergy involved in sexual abuse. He was removed from active ministry and suspended in 2011 after he admitted to sexually abusing a minor while he was in college.

St. Bede’s directed a WYDaily reporter to the Diocesan sexual abuse reporting line when asked to confirm Pham’s assignment at St. Bede’s.

The Catholic Virginian first reported Pham’s suspension in July 2011, when Pham was a parochial vicar at St. John parish in Dinwiddie.

“We ask you to please keep all victims of abuse in your prayers,” said a statement from the Office of the Bishop. “We also ask you to pray for Msgr. Pham.”

Written in 2009, Pham’s biography detailing his experience is included on a webpage for the Church of Vietnamese Martyrs. The page was created as part of the 2010 World Religions & Spirituality project at Virginia Commonwealth University.

While the biography says Pham founded the Church of Vietnamese Martyrs, the church’s website now lists its pastor as GB. Nguyễn Nghiêu.

The disclosure of the 42 names comes five months after Bishop Barry Knestout pledged to conduct an independent investigation to review church personnel files.

“To those who experienced abuse from clergy, I am truly, deeply sorry,” Knestout wrote in a letter published with the list on the diocese’s website. “I regret that you have to bear the burden of the damage you suffered at the hands of those you trusted. I am also sorry that you must carry the memory of that experience with you.”

Knestout said publishing the list “can help bring about healing” and “heighten the awareness of this tragic situation.”

Thirteen of the 42 priests on the Richmond list are now deceased, and the rest have been removed from ministry. Six have been criminally convicted.

The list covers allegations dating from the 1950s to the most recent substantiated allegation in 1993, said Deborah Cox, a spokeswoman for the Diocese.

Cox said Knestout does not know of any priests or deacons currently serving in ministry or in any other capacity with a credible and substantiated allegation of sexual abuse against them. Cox said that if victims come forward with allegations against any clergy in active ministry, Knestout “will respond in accordance with our commitment to addressing allegations of sexual abuse.”

Attorney General Mark Herring said in October that his office and state police were investigating possible clergy sexual abuse of children and whether any church officials may have covered up or “abetted any such crimes.”

Herring set up a hotline and an online reporting form for any victims to report abuse — the toll-free hotline (833-454-9064) will allow for anonymous reporting and will be staffed by Virginia State Police investigators during regular business hours, according to the AG’s office.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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