ROCHESTER — During an Aug. 2 arraignment in City Court, Father Dennis R. Sewar pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges of third-degree sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child.
According to court documents, the alleged incidents of abuse took place between the end of October 1999 and August 2001, during which time Father Sewar was pastor of Rochester’s Church of the Annunciation. Court documents state that the alleged victim was a teenage boy who claimed the priest repeatedly touched him in an inappropriate manner, and that the alleged abuse stopped when the boy turned 16.
Father Sewar, a diocesan priest who has been on administrative leave since mid-June, was arrested on the charges July 22.
City Court Judge John E. Elliott ordered Father Sewar to have no contact with his accuser. The priest is slated to appear in court again on Aug. 17. If convicted, he could face up to a year in prison on each charge, according to his attorney, John F. Speranza.
“We’re going to very vigorously defend the case,” Speranza said.
Following the arraignment, Speranza questioned why the priest’s accuser had waited so long to bring charges. He added that several people had called him to express support for Father Sewar.
In a July 24 statement, the diocese said it had received information about the alleged incidents in late April, and immediately notified the Rochester Police Department in accordance with sexual-abuse guidelines set forth by the diocese and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. Per its policy, the diocese has declined to comment on the case while it is pending, a diocesan spokesman said.
Father Sewar was pastor at Church of the Annunciation from 1998 to 2003. His most recent assignment was as pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Spencerport from 2003 until June 14 of this year, when Bishop Matthew H. Clark granted his request for an indefinite administrative leave for personal reasons.
Father Sewar, who was ordained in 1983, had been on sabbatical since January, 2005.