Since May of 2019, The Lepanto Institute has been spotlighting the diocese of Arlington's handling of possible false allegations leveled against one of its priests. In November of 2018, Fr. Ronald Escalante, pastor of St. Francis De Sales Catholic Church in Purcellville, Virginia, was removed from his parish due to an alleged "boundary violation."
This past May, The Lepanto Institute published an article with interviews of parishioners who made multiple attempts to give important information to the diocese.
Central to their concerns were alleged efforts to recruit parishioners into making false allegations against Fr. Escalante by the parish's director of religious education (DRE), James Blankenship.
In June of 2019, The Lepanto Institute revealed that a girl (Sophia 1) made multiple, unsuccessful attempts to tell the diocese that the girl accusing Fr. Escalante (Molly) admitted to a group of girls that she lied about the accusation. In a letter sent to the diocese on April 8, Sophia 1 made the following claims regarding Molly.
Key points contained in the letter are as follows:
Despite claiming to have never received the letter from Sophia 1 or the calls from her parents, after the publication of our article, the Arlington diocese finally sought out and obtained an interview with Sophia 1 to discuss what she witnessed.
Billy Atwell, chief communications officer for the diocese of Arlington, confirmed that the interview took place but indicated that no comment beyond confirmation of the meeting could be offered "in order to preserve the integrity of the investigation and protect the reputations of all of the parties involved."
Since the interview, a second witness (Sophia 2) has come forward to testify that Molly admitted to lying about her accusation against Fr. Escalante. Fearing repercussions if her identity was discovered, Sophia 2 gave her testimony to two parishioners as an affidavit. The authenticity of the testimony was sworn and notarized on Aug. 10.