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THE NATION

Cardinal Meets Suspect in Shooting, Vows Help

June 01, 2002|From Associated Press

BALTIMORE — Cardinal William Keeler met with the man accused of shooting a priest and assured him he would push for a zero-tolerance policy toward sexual abuse of children in the Roman Catholic Church.

"There's no place in the ministry of our church for anyone who would put a child in danger," Keeler said Friday.

The cardinal met for 90 minutes on Thursday with Dontee Stokes, the 26-year-old Baltimore man who told police he shot Father Maurice Blackwell on May 13 because he had been molested by the priest years earlier. He faces attempted murder charges.

"I apologized for the pain that he has suffered, and to him I renewed the offer of the archdiocese to assist with the counseling that, appropriately, he may require," Keeler said.

Keeler also told Stokes he would try to enact the policy at a conference of the nation's bishops in June in Dallas.

The meeting between Stokes and the cardinal took place at the home of Stokes' aunt, where Stokes has been under house arrest.

Keeler said he found Stokes to be a thoughtful person and ended the meeting with a prayer. Stokes' mother and his attorney also were at the meeting.

Tamara Stokes said she told Keeler she is angry that Blackwell has not been defrocked. "I think he should pay for what he did to my son and to all the other people that are out here coming forward," she said.

Keeler previously apologized to the Stokes family for reinstating Blackwell after Stokes accused him of sexual abuse in 1993. Blackwell was stripped of his duties five years later, after he admitted to another sexual relationship.

Stokes' attorney, Warren Brown, described the meeting as "aid to a wounded soul." He said he would take the church up on the offer to provide counseling for Stokes.

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