Originally created 11/20/02

Priest with Georgia ties admits abuse



ROCKVILLE, Md. - A Catholic priest ordained in Georgia pleaded guilty Tuesday to sexually abusing two brothers in the 1970s while he was a seminary student.

Wearing a green prison jumpsuit, the Rev. Wayland Y. Brown stood at the defense table and looked at one man, now in his 40s, sitting with family members in back of the Montgomery County Circuit Court room.

"He is in no way responsible for what happened to him," the Rev. Brown said. "If it helps in his healing process to know that, I hope it can be conveyed."

The Rev. Brown, 59, pleaded guilty to child abuse and battery charges for performing sexual acts on a 12-year-old boy and his 13-year-old brother in their Gaithersburg home between 1974 and 1977. Under a plea agreement, the Rev. Brown, who has not worked as a priest since 1988, could face three years in prison when sentenced Jan. 22.

Assistant State's Attorney Peter Feeney said five other men have come forward recently to accuse the Rev. Brown of abusing them as boys in the 1970s. One was an altar boy at a Prince George's County church, two are from Georgia, and another was allegedly molested while visiting Disney World with the Rev. Brown.

However, the statute of limitations on the alleged crimes has run out in Florida and Georgia, so he can't be prosecuted in those states, Mr. Feeney said.

The Rev. Brown studied at the Washington Theological College in the District of Columbia from 1972 to 1976 and worked at a Gaithersburg church, where he met the brothers. He did not graduate from seminary but was ordained in the Diocese of Savannah in 1977.

He served at St. Joseph, St. Mary and St. Teresa churches and the Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Augusta. He also served at Immaculate Conception Church in Moultrie, Ga.; St. John Vianney in Camilla, Ga.; and St. James in Savannah, Ga.

The Rev. Brown became close with the boys while counseling their mother on her marital problems, Mr. Feeney said. He would sometimes spend the night at the family home and took the boys on hiking trips and to movies and concerts.

The diocese had concerns about the Rev. Brown even before he went to seminary, according to a law enforcement source, speaking on condition of anonymity. Letters in his personnel file written by people who knew him in Georgia and at least one diocesan official, the vicar general, stressed that he could be a danger to children. The letters recommended that he not be sent to seminary, the source said.

The diocese's vocations director at the time, who handled personnel issues, recommended in a 1977 letter that he not be ordained because of concerns that he might be abusing children, the source said. He was later ordained into the priesthood by then-Bishop Raymond Lessard, who didn't return a call Tuesday by The Associated Press seeking comment.

Bishop J. Kevin Boland, the current head of the Savannah Diocese, would not comment on the Rev. Brown's personnel records.

In a statement on the guilty plea, Bishop Boland said the Rev. Brown has not been in active priesthood since 1988 and can't celebrate Mass, wear clerical clothes or call himself a priest in public. He also said the Rev. Brown could be defrocked.

"On behalf of our diocese, I extend sincere apologies and deepest regrets to the victims of the crimes to which Father Brown has pleaded guilty," Bishop Boland said.

Montgomery County prosecutors were approached earlier this year by one of the brothers, who said the Rev. Brown abused him at the boy's home, at the Rev. Brown's seminary dorm room and on several trips to Georgia. Authorities later determined the boy's older brother had also been abused.

Police had the younger man confront the Rev. Brown twice this year, once over the phone and later in person. The Rev. Brown said he could not remember the abuse because of a nervous breakdown he had in the mid-1980s, but he did apologize.

His attorney, Paul Kemp, said the Rev. Brown spent nine months in 1985 and 1986 at the St. Luke Institute, a Silver Spring psychiatric hospital for priests. Mr. Kemp said the Rev. Brown suffered from a sexual addiction but has been celibate since he was released.

"He feels so terrible about this. He thinks he should be punished," Mr. Kemp said.

Staff Writer Virginia Norton contributed to this article.