An Ohio priest faces felony charges after authorities accused him of sexually abusing an altar girl who is now pregnant.
Father Henry Christopher Foxhoven, a 45-year-old priest at Holy Cross in Glouster, Ohio, was charged Tuesday with eight counts of sexual battery in the case, according to a press release from the Athens County Sheriff’s Office. Foxhoven is accused of abusing the 17-year-old girl, who was a parishioner at Holy Cross, from Aug. 17 to Oct. 25, deputies said.
“This is a person in a position of trust,” Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn said Tuesday, the Athens News reports. “The state would allege that she’s been groomed and that she’s in love with him and thinks that they’re going to have a future together, and she’s pregnant with his child.”
Though the charges relate to the last few months, prosecutors said the girl had been “groomed” by Foxhoven for years, 10TV reports. Prosecutors also said the alleged sexual battery occurred on church grounds, though not inside Holy Cross.
Authorities said the Steubenville Diocese reported the alleged abuse to the sheriff’s office on Oct. 27 after church officials learned of the allegations. The diocese barred Foxhoven from church property and from conducting services, authorities said.
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On Oct. 29, a search of Foxhoven’s home revealed “several” used condoms and a used pregnancy test, which was positive, the sheriff’s office said. The condoms and pregnancy test — which deputies described as “evidence of criminal activity” — were sent to a crime lab.
Foxhoven’s preliminary hearing is set for Nov. 29, deputies said. He remains in custody on $1 million bail, NBC 4 reports.
The diocese announced Foxhoven’s suspension in a press release last week, on the same day the alleged abuse was reported to authorities.
“Father Foxhoven cannot exercise any sacred ministry or perform any ecclesiastical function, dress in clerical garb, or present himself as a priest,” Diocese of Steubenville Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton said in a statement on Oct. 27. “We must remain vigilant in assisting victims of sexual abuse. We will cooperate with authorities and assist in their investigation of this case.”
A spokesperson for the Steubenville Diocese said the church plans to release a public list of priests it has removed due to sexual misconduct allegations, The Times Leader reports.
The arrest comes as the the Survivors Network for Those Abused By Priests, or SNAP, has called on Ohio’s attorney general to investigate child sex abuse allegations in the state, The Vindicator reports.
Editor’s note: This article was updated Wednesday to more accurately characterize the suspect’s actions.