A retired parish priest in Babylon has stepped down because of an allegation he sexually abused a minor at least two decades ago, although the priest denies the allegation, the Diocese of Rockville Centre said Sunday.
The Rev. Joseph V. Arevalo, 81, who retired in 2014 and has been living at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church, “has voluntarily stepped away from ministry and will not present himself as a priest” while the allegation is investigated, diocesan spokesman Sean Dolan said.
Arevalo could not be reached for comment.
The alleged abuse was reported to have occurred in the 1990s, Dolan said. He did not provide details of the allegation and he said the diocese is not aware of any other allegations of misconduct against Arevalo.
“It is necessary that a thorough investigation be conducted” of the allegation, he said.
Diocesan officials announced the news during Masses at St. Joseph this weekend.
Under diocesan guidelines, any allegations against clergy must be reported immediately to law enforcement. The district attorneys offices in Nassau and Suffolk counties could not be reached for comment.
“We ask for your prayers during these days, which are difficult for all of those involved,” Dolan said in a statement.
Arevalo, who was ordained a priest in his native Philippines, has served in the Diocese of Rockville Centre since the 1970s, according to the St. Joseph website.
The allegation against him came to the attention of the diocese recently through its Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, which accepts claims from those who were allegedly sexually abused by clergy as children regardless how long ago the misconduct occurred, Dolan said. If a claimant accepts payment, he or she must agree not to sue the diocese.
Allegations against at least four other living priests and one deacon in the diocese have surfaced through the program since September.
Dolan said anyone who believes they were sexually abused by clergy should contact local law enforcement and the diocese’s Office for the Protection of Children and Young People. Its hotline number is 516-594-9063. A licensed mental health counselor will answer the call, he said.