Roman Catholic Diocese of Arlington

Coordinates: 38°52′14.4″N 77°06′12.2″W / 38.870667°N 77.103389°W / 38.870667; -77.103389
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Diocese of Arlington

Dioecesis Arlingtonensis
Cathedral of St. Thomas More
Coat of arms
Country United States
TerritoryVirginia Counties of Arlington, Clarke, Culpeper, Fairfax, Fauquier, Frederick, King George, Lancaster, Loudoun, Madison, Northumberland, Orange, Page, Prince William, Rappahannock, Richmond, Shenandoah, Spotsylvania, Stafford, Warren and Westmoreland; Cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Fredericksburg, Manassas, Manassas Park, and Winchester in northeastern Virginia
Episcopal conferenceUnited States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Ecclesiastical regionIV
Ecclesiastical provinceBaltimore
Headquarters200 North Glebe Rd., Arlington County, Virginia, U.S.
Coordinates38°52′14.4″N 77°06′12.2″W / 38.870667°N 77.103389°W / 38.870667; -77.103389
Area6,541 sq mi (16,940 km2)
- Total
- Catholics
(as of 2020)
453,083[a] (13.6%)
DenominationCatholic Church
Sui iuris churchLatin Church
RiteRoman Rite
EstablishedMay 28, 1974 (1974-05-28)
CathedralCathedral of Saint Thomas More
Patron saintSt. Thomas More
Secular priests186[a]
Current leadership
BishopMichael F. Burbidge
Metropolitan ArchbishopWilliam Lori
Vicar GeneralJamie R. Workman
Bishops emeritusPaul Loverde
Diocesan offices, Arlington, Virginia
Basilica of St. Mary, Alexandria, Virginia

The Diocese of Arlington (Latin: Dioecesis Arlingtonensis) is a Latin diocese of the Catholic Church in Northern Virginia in the United States. It is a suffragan diocese in the ecclesiastical province of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The Cathedral of St. Thomas More is the mother church of the diocese.

Michael F. Burbidge has been serving as bishop of the Diocese of Arlington since December 2016.[2] The patron saint of the diocese is the English statesman Thomas More.


In 2020, the Diocese of Arlington had 240 priests (186 secular priests; 54 religious priests) and 453,083 Catholics.[a] As of 2020, the total population within the diocese, Catholic and non-Catholic, was 3,329,860.[a] There are 70 parishes across 21 Northern Virginia counties and seven cities in the diocese:[3]




1600 to 1784[edit]

Prior to the American Revolution, few Catholics lived in the British Colony of Virginia. In 1634, John Altham, a Jesuit companion of Andrew White, performed missionary work among the Native American tribes living on the south bank of the Potomac River. The colonial government of Virginia soon enacted stringent laws against the practice of Catholicism. During the late 17th century, the few Catholic settlers in northern Virginia, living near Aquia Creek, were attended by John Carroll and other Jesuit missionaries from Maryland.[4]

By 1776, the city of Alexandria had a log chapel with a resident Catholic priest. Reverend John Thayer from Boston was stationed at the chapel in 1794.

1784 to 1820[edit]

Bishop Fenwick

After the American Revolution, Pope Pius VI in 1784 erected the Prefecture Apostolic of the United States, encompassing the entire territory of the new nation. With the passage in 1786 of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, written by future US President Thomas Jefferson, Catholics were granted religious freedom in the new state of Virginia.[5]

Pius VI erected the Diocese of Baltimore, the first diocese in the United States, to replace the prefecture apostolic in 1789.[6]

Reverend Francis Neale erected a brick church in Alexandria in 1796 and replaced it with a larger one in 1811. Reverends Anthony Kohlmann and Benedict Fenwick frequently officiated at services in Alexandria.[7]

1820 to 1974[edit]

Marymount University, Arlington, Virginia

Pope Pius VII erected the Diocese of Richmond on July 11, 1820, including all of Virginia (except two Eastern Shore counties) and the present state of West Virginia. The Northern Virginia area would remain part of this diocese for the next 154 years.[7]

In 1950, nuns from the Sacred Heart Order established a girls' college in Arlington that later became Marymount University.[7] By 1957, the Diocese of Richmond had founded eleven new parishes in Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax; in 1946, only eight parishes existed in the region.[7]

1974 to 1999[edit]

Pope Paul VI erected the Diocese of Arlington on May 28, 1974, removing its territory from the Diocese of Richmond.[8][1] The pope appointed Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Welsh of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia as the first bishop of Arlington.[9]

During his tenure, Welsh established six new parishes and dedicated eleven new churches in the diocese. He created the Office of Migration and Refugee Services in 1975 and the Family Life Bureau in 1977. That same year, Christendom College opened in Front Royal, Virginia. [10]

Welsh also started the diocesan newspaper, The Arlington Catholic Herald.Walsh was the founding president of the board of the Catholic Home Study Institute which became the Catholic Distance University. The number of Catholics in the diocese increased from 154,000 to 179,000 under his tenure. In 1983, Pope John Paul II appointed Welsh as bishop of the Diocese of Allentown.[9]

To replace Welsh, John Paul II named John Keating of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Keating issued six pastoral letters and ordained 84 priests. In 1994, he made national headlines by refusing to allow female altar servers in the diocese. When Keating died in 1998, the diocese had over 336,000 Catholics, 65 parishes, and five missions.[11]

1999 to 2020[edit]

Bishop Paul Loverde of the Diocese of Ogdensburg became the third bishop of Arlington, named by John Paul II to the position in 1999.[12] Loverde reinstated the permanent diaconate program, and allowed seminarians to study at Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts, the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, and the Catholic University of America. He also supported religious orders coming into the diocese, such as the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist and the Cloistered Dominicans.[13] In 2006, Loverde permitted female altar servers, at the discretion of the local pastors, for the first time.[14] In 2015, Divine Mercy University was established in Sterling, Virginia.[15] Loverde retired in 2016.[12]

Pope Francis appointed Bishop Michael Burbidge from the Diocese of Raleigh as bishop of Arlington in 2016.[16]

In August 2017, Reverend William Aitcheson admitted to having been a member of the Ku Klux Klan while in college in the 1970s. Aitcheson announced that he would temporarily step down from his post at St. Leo the Great Catholic Parish in Fairfax, Virginia. Burbidge released a statement referring to Aitcheson's past as "sad and deeply troubling" while hoping that his conversion of heart would inspire others.[17][18]

2020 to present[edit]

Bishop Burbidge

On August 12, 2021, Burbidge released a pastoral letter on the church's stance on transgenderism. In the letter, he criticized the use of preferred gender pronouns when addressing transgender people.[19] In January 2022, the diocese instructed its schools to follow Virginia's Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin's anti-mask executive order for schools that was to go into effect on January 24.[20]

Also in January 2022, Burbidge restricted use of the Tridentine Latin mass in the diocese, in accordance with the apostolic letter Traditionis custodes issued by Pope Francis in July 2021. Burbidge permitted 21 parishes already celebrating the Tridentine mass to continue the practice, but banned any other parishes from starting it.[21][22][23] In July 2022, Burbidge restricted the Tridentine mass to eight parishes; in five of those eight parishes, the priest could not celebrate the mass in the main church.[24]

The diocese in May 2022 sued the City of Alexandria to block the implementation of an affordable housing project. The issue was an alley separating St. Rita Church and its Catholic school from the planned project. The diocese claimed that the project was unlawfully removing access to the church and school through the alley.[25] After the developer and the diocese reached a compromise solution, the lawsuit was dismissed in November 2022.[26]

As of 2023, Burbidge is the current bishop of Arlington.

Sexual abuse[edit]

In August 1992, Reverend William T. Reinecke, chancellor of the diocese, committed suicide. It happened two days after he was confronted by Joseph McDonald, one of his alleged sexual abuse victims from the 1960's.[27] McDonald said he had urged Reinecke to resign and seek professional help. In September 1992 Joseph T. O'Brien Jr told the Washington Post that he had also been sexually molested by Reinecke around 1969.[27]

In 2012, a woman sued Loverde, the diocese, and other defendants, claiming that Reverend Thomas J. Euteneur from the Diocese of Palm Beach had sexually abused her in Virginia on several occasions in 2008. The plaintiff stated that Euteneur, under the guise of conducting an exorcism, had kissed and fondled her. Euterneur had already admitted guilt and settled separately with her. She said that Loverde and the diocese had given Euteneur permission to perform exorcisms on other individuals. The plaintiff subsequently dropped the case against Loverde and the diocese.[28]

In February 2019, Burbidge released a list of sixteen diocesan priests who had been credibly accused of sexual abuse.[29][30]

In March 2020, Reverend Scott Asalone was arrested on charges of sexually abusing Washington DC Councilman David Grosso when he was 14 years old. The crimes took place at Saint Francis de Sales Parish in Purcellville in 1985.[31][32] Asalone was removed from public ministry by the diocese in 1993. Asalone was convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison in June 2023.[33]

Reverend Terry Specht was charged in December 2021 with two counts of sexually abusing a minor. He allegedly molested a child under age 13 while serving as Paul VI Catholic High School in Chantilly in 2000. Specht had been accused of molesting a teenager at a school during the 1990's, but was never criminally charges. Specht served as director of the Office of Child Protection for the diocese from 2004 to 2011.[34] In October 22, Specht was acquitted by a jury of all charges.[35]


Bishops of Arlington[edit]

  1. Thomas Jerome Welsh (1974–1983), appointed Bishop of Allentown[36]
  2. John Richard Keating (1983–1998), died in office
  3. Paul S. Loverde (1999–2016)
  4. Michael F. Burbidge (2016–present)

Other diocesan priest who became bishop[edit]

Antons Justs, appointed Bishop of Jelgava in 1995


Mission churches[edit]

The Diocese of Arlington operates two mission churches for the Diocese of San Juan de la Maguana in the Dominican Republic:

  • Bánica Mission Parish (St. Francis of Assisi Church) in Bánica
  • Pedro Santana Mission Parish in Pedro Santana.

Both mission churches are overseen by the Arlington Dominican Mission.[37]


Christ the King Chapel at Christendom College, Front Royal, Virginia

Colleges and universities[edit]

High schools[edit]

Diocesan high schools[edit]

The Diocese of Arlington administers four high schools, with an enrollment of , with 3,911 in 2024.[38]

Independent high schools[edit]

The diocese contains three independently owned high schools that adhere to the diocesan curriculum guidelines.[39]

Other schools[edit]

The Diocese of Arlington has 37 elementary/middle schools, one virtual school, five private elementary/middle schools, three stand-alone preschool programs, and one private day care. As of 2024, there were 12,960 students enrolled in diocesan pre-K, elementary, and middle school.[38]

Catholic Charities[edit]

The Diocese of Arlington coordinates and supports a range of charitable activities focused on assistance to the vulnerable, fund-raising and education. Initiatives include counseling, prison visits and foster care.[40] Archduchess Kathleen of Habsburg-Lorraine is a former communications director of the CCDA.[41]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b "Diocese of Arlington". David M. Cheney. March 17, 2023. Retrieved April 11, 2023.
  2. ^ Andreassi, Anthony D. (2002). Walking in Faith: the first 25 Years. A History of the Diocese of Arlington, Editions du Signe: Strasbourg. ISBN 2-7468-0625-8 (This is an official history—see p. 3.)
  3. ^ 2014 Catholic Diocese of Arlington Directory Archived March 27, 2016, at the Wayback Machine p. iv.
  4. ^ Magri, Francis Joseph. "Diocese of Richmond", The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. June 27, 2019Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  5. ^ "Catholic Encyclopedia: John Dubois".
  6. ^ "Our History". Archdiocese of Baltimore. Archived from the original on July 24, 2008. Retrieved March 30, 2009.
  7. ^ a b c d "Spotlight: Catholic Virginia". Retrieved April 12, 2023.
  8. ^ Andreassi, p. 5.
  9. ^ a b "Bishop Thomas Jerome Welsh [Catholic-Hierarchy]". Retrieved May 8, 2024.
  10. ^ "A History of Christendom College". Christendom College. December 15, 2015. Retrieved May 8, 2024.
  11. ^ "Arlington's Second Bishop — John R. Keating". Arlington Catholic Herald. November 20, 2008. Archived from the original on March 23, 2017. Retrieved February 25, 2023.
  12. ^ a b "Bishop Paul Stephen Loverde [Catholic-Hierarchy]". Retrieved May 8, 2024.
  13. ^ Bahr, Katie (March 18, 2009). "Vocations Show Growth During Bishop's Tenure". Catholic Herald. Archived from the original on December 3, 2013.
  14. ^ "Latin Mass Allowed, Altar Server Policy Expanded". Catholic Diocese of Arlington. March 21, 2006. Archived from the original on December 3, 2013. Retrieved November 28, 2013.
  15. ^ "History of Divine Mercy University - Divine Mercy University". May 3, 2021. Retrieved May 8, 2024.
  16. ^ "Bishop Michael Francis Burbidge [Catholic-Hierarchy]". Retrieved May 8, 2024.
  17. ^ Hedgpeth, Dana; Boorstein, Michelle (August 22, 2017). "'My actions were despicable': Catholic priest steps down after revealing he was a Ku Klux Klan member decades ago". Retrieved October 1, 2017.
  18. ^ "Priest asks forgiveness for having been KKK member years ago as young man". August 23, 2017. Retrieved October 1, 2017.
  19. ^ Jones, Kevin J. (August 19, 2021). "Christian response to transgender conflicts needs charity and clarity, Arlington diocese says". Catholic News Agency.
  20. ^ Bonk, Valerie (January 23, 2022). "Catholic Diocese of Arlington instructs its schools to follow Virginia mask exemption order". WTOP.
  21. ^ Rousselle, Christine (January 18, 2022). "'Devastated' Traditional Latin Mass devotees petition Arlington bishop to ease restrictions". Catholic News Agency.
  22. ^ "Traditional Latin Mass: Canonists Question the Legislative Force of Recent Vatican Guidelines". NCR. February 8, 2022. Retrieved February 19, 2023.
  23. ^ "Roche's gamble — and the Vatican law of power". The Pillar. February 10, 2023. Retrieved February 19, 2023.
  24. ^ Mullen, Shannon (July 30, 2022). "Arlington bishop curtails Traditional Latin Masses". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved August 4, 2022.
  25. ^ Armus, Teo (May 1, 2022). "Catholic diocese sues Alexandria over affordable housing development". Washington Post. Retrieved July 2, 2023.
  26. ^ Armus, Teo (November 15, 2022). "Catholic diocese's suit over alley by Alexandria housing project dismissed". Washington Post. Retrieved July 2, 2023.
  27. ^ a b Loose, Cindy (September 12, 1992). "2ND MAN ACCUSES MONSIGNOR". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved July 2, 2023.
  28. ^ Bianchini, Roger (September 29, 2014). "Late September 2014 Warren and Frederick County Report". Issuu. Warren/Frederick County, Va.
  29. ^ "Virginia's two dioceses release lists of clergy credibly accused of abuse". Catholic News Herald. Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte. February 15, 2019. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  30. ^ Burbidge, Michael (February 15, 2019). "Priests Credibly Accused of Sexual Abuse of a Minor". Catholic Diocese of Arlington. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  31. ^ "Former priest in Northern Virginia charged with sexual abuse". WTOP. March 16, 2020. Archived from the original on March 21, 2020. Retrieved March 21, 2020.
  32. ^ "Statement of Councilmember Grosso on indictment of former Virginia clergyman". David Grosso, Chairperson, Education Committee. March 16, 2020.
  33. ^ "Former Loudoun Co. priest sentenced to 8 years for sexual abuse of minor". WTOP News. June 7, 2023. Retrieved July 2, 2023.
  34. ^ "Priest who led diocesan Office of Child Protection charged in abuse case". America Magazine. December 30, 2021. Retrieved July 2, 2023.
  35. ^ "Retired priest in Virginia acquitted on sex abuse charge". CBS 6 News Richmond WTVR. October 7, 2022. Retrieved July 2, 2023.
  36. ^ Andreassi, p. 37.
  37. ^ "Donate to Missions". Retrieved May 8, 2024.
  38. ^ a b "Diocese of Arlington Catholic School". Retrieved March 31, 2023.
  39. ^ "High Schools". Retrieved March 31, 2023.
  40. ^ "Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington". CCDA.
  41. ^ "An Archduchess Among Us". Northern Kentucky University. Archived from the original on February 9, 2015.


External links[edit]