Diocese of Arlington Responds to WJLA story on the late Msgr. William Reinecke


July 19, 2019

Following his death in 1992, reports of sexual abuse of minors by Msgr. William Reinecke in the late-1960s and early-1970s were first brought forward and were fully documented by national and local media. In some instances, it was alleged that abuse occurred during overnight trips that Msgr. Reinecke had taken with minors.

The abuse committed by Fr. Reinecke was a grave sin and horrendous crime. No person should ever be victimized, and the Church should be a place of peace and joy for all people, especially children. The Catholic Church—like all institutions that work with minors—operates very differently today than it did 50 years ago, and interactions between priests and minors are more controlled and limited than in the past. In particular, such overnight trips – apart from fully-chaperoned youth events – are explicitly prohibited.

Additionally, the Diocese has a comprehensive and thorough system of policies and protocols that aid in prevention of sexual abuse of minors and reports all allegations to legal authorities. Our protocols include background checks for all clergy, staff and volunteers, as well as a training program that helps people identify grooming activity and other concerning behaviors, whether in a church setting or elsewhere.

In September 2018, the Diocese of Arlington hired two former FBI special agents to examine all clergy files and information going back to the founding of the Diocese in 1974. They performed this thorough review to assist the Diocese in its publication of a list of priests who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor. That list was published on February 13, 2019, and can be found at ArlingtonDiocese.org/ClergyAbuseList. The purpose of releasing the names of those credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor was to assist victims and survivors in their healing.

The Diocese of Arlington was contacted in late February by a reporter with WJLA regarding an in-depth story he was planning to produce on Msgr. Reinecke, who was one of the priests named on the Diocese’s list. Over a period of nearly five months we assisted the reporter, providing extensive answers, clarifications and pertinent facts. We felt it was important that viewers of WJLA have an accurate understanding of the information that is known about Msgr. Reinecke’s actions.

Here is a summary of some of the information we provided to WJLA over the past 5 months:

Msgr. William Reinecke was ordained to the priesthood in 1965 for the Diocese of Richmond. He was incardinated to the Diocese of Arlington in 1975, after the creation of the Diocese of Arlington in 1974. After Msgr. Reinecke’s death in 1992, the Diocese of Arlington became aware of the first allegations that he had sexually abused minors. All of the known allegations date back to the late 1960s and early 1970s, before the Diocese of Arlington was founded.

The Diocese of Arlington has no information that indicates that either the Diocese of Arlington or the Diocese of Richmond received any allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by Msgr. Reinecke while he was alive, and there is no indication that he was moved from one parish to another or that his role changed in any way due to any complaint of such behavior.

Studies have verified that the child protection policies and procedures implemented in the Catholic Church after the promulgation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002 have been very effective in providing for the safety of minors in the Church. Since 2002 we have implemented a zero-tolerance policy in which anyone with a credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor is permanently removed from ministry.

The Diocese remains ready to speak with victims who have not yet come forward and now want to tell their story. We welcome the chance to assist them in their healing and offer pastoral support. As is the case of any victim of sexual abuse, Bishop Burbidge welcomes that opportunity to meet with them, hear their story and offer his pastoral care.

The Diocese of Arlington encourages anyone who knows of any misconduct or abuse on the part of any cleric or employee of the Diocese to report it to the Virginia Attorney General hotline ( VirginiaClergyHotline.com), and also to contact the diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator at (703) 841-2530. The diocesan child protection policy is online at arlingtondiocese.org/child-protection