SILVER SPRING, Md. -- In the latest tragic turn in the abuse scandal that has embroiled the Roman Catholic church, a priest was found hanged at a psychiatric hospital less than three weeks after resigning from his parish amid allegations of sexual abuse.
The priest, identified by church officials as the Rev. Alfred J. Bietighofer, was sent to the hospital to undergo psychiatric evaluation after the allegations surfaced and he resigned from his Bridgeport, Conn, parish.
It was the second apparent suicide of a clergyman since the sex abuse scandal engulfed the Roman Catholic Church.
Bietighofer, 64, was found hanging in his room Thursday at St. Luke Institute in suburban Washington, according to Prince George's County police. A nurse found the body, said the Rev. Stephen Rossetti, a psychologist who directs the center.
"I am profoundly saddened by the tragic death of Father Alfred Bietighofer," Bridgeport Bishop William Lori said in a statement. "To parishioners and to all those whom Father Bietighofer assisted during the course of his priestly ministry, I extend my sincere sympathy and prayers."
Two men told diocesan officials that Bietighofer abused them when they were boys in the late 1970s and early 1980s, church officials said. Bietighofer, who was assistant pastor of St. Andrew Parish in Bridgeport, resigned April 29.
"The allegations from the two gentlemen were credible enough to warrant immediate action, in line with our policy," Lori said at the time the priest resigned.
Bridgeport attorney Jason Tremont, who represented Bietighofer's two accusers, said about eight others also have claimed Bietighofer abused them. He is investigating their allegations.
The Connecticut Post reported that the men accused Bietighofer of fondling them when they were children when he was assigned to Blessed Sacrament Church in Bridgeport.
Bietighofer told the Post he didn't know anything about the allegations. Church officials said they weren't aware of the allegations until seeing the newspaper's story.
Church officials did not report the allegations against Bietighofer to authorities, but said they would cooperate if asked for information.
Bietighofer had served in the Bridgeport diocese since he was ordained in 1965, except for two yearlong stints in Peru in the 1970s and 1980s.
St. Luke treats priests and nuns for a variety of mental health problems, including alcoholism, depression and pedophilia.
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