WASHINGTON – The Army is investigating a Roman Catholic military chaplain on multiple charges of forcible sodomy and assault.
Father Gregory Arflack (search) was suspended both by the Army and his dioceses pending the results of the investigation.
Arflack, 44, is a chaplain with the 279th Base Support Battalion. The unit performs administrative functions at its post in Bamberg, Germany, which also houses the 1st Infantry Division.
The Army is investigating 12 charges: three counts each of forcible sodomy and indecent acts, two counts each of fraternization with enlisted service members and disobeying orders, and one count each of indecent assault and conduct unbecoming an officer, said Maj. Bill Coppernoll, a 1st Infantry Division spokesman.
The Army did not discuss specifics about the alleged assaults, except to say they occurred while Arflack was stationed in Doha, Qatar, in March 2004 and in Bamberg on July 29 and 30 of this year.
The pretrial investigation, which began Aug. 11, will lead to an Article 32 hearing, Coppernoll said. That hearing, procedurally equivalent to a grand jury, will decide if the evidence warrants a general court-martial. A hearing could occur as early as next week, Coppernoll said.
The charges were first reported Aug. 17 in the military newspaper Stars and Stripes.
Arflack works under the jurisdiction of the Owensboro, Ky., diocese, where he served his first two assignments as a priest in Paducah and Bowling Green from 1998 to 2002. Like all Roman Catholic chaplains, he is considered to be "on loan" to the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (search), which serves Catholics in the military, government service and Veterans Administration hospitals.
Both have suspended Arflack.
The Owensboro diocese is not planning to look into Arflack's behavior until after the military has completed its investigation, said Bishop John McRaith, who has headed the diocese since 1982. It has suspended his activity during the investigation.
"These are allegations at this point so obviously we're not doing any investigating from here to Germany," McRaith said. As bishop, McRaith recommended Arflack for his military chaplaincy.
The Military Archdiocese's suspension allows Arflack to perform Mass for himself and last rites in emergency situations, but it bars him from public ministry, said Vice Chancellor Tom Connelly.
"It's not the same as a final judgment that a person shouldn't be a priest any more," Connelly said.
Arflack was featured in a recent Military Archdiocese documentary called "Fight of Faith," which aired on the Catholic television station EWTN. According to a description, "the program presents Fr. Gregory Arflack, both in interviews and in footage, interacting with new recruits and other soldiers."
As an Army chaplain, Arflack was first stationed at Fort Knox, Ky., from June 2002 to December 2004, said Fort Knox spokesman Ken Beyer.
Arflack was deployed for much of 2004 and took his position in Bamberg in January 2005, said Army spokeswoman Martha Rudd.
Arflack was still in Bamberg as of Tuesday, Coppernoll said.