Local pastor steps down amidst allegations of inappropriate behavior

CHESTERFIELD (WWBT)-  For the second time in 10 years, a Virginia Catholic priest has stepped down from his pulpit amidst allegations of "inappropriate behavior".

Father Stephen Randy Rule agreed to step aside as pastor of the Church of the Epiphany after Bishop Francis DiLorenzo learned of the accusation.

According to the Richmond Diocese, the charges are not criminal, and they do not involve a minor.  However the situation is very similar to an incident from 2002, when Father Rule left active ministry under a cloud of suspicion, but was later cleared of all charges.

For the past nine years, Father Rule has worked to repair his image. An image damaged from allegations leveled against him in 2002, but from an incident in the 70s.

At the time, he was cleared and returned to the ministry.

He was sent to Central Virginia and the Smoketree Road Parish of the Church of the Epiphany. It was described as a "transitional assignment".

He served as pastor for nine years up until this past weekend when Bishop Francis DiLroenzo informed the parish that Rule was once again accused of inappropriate behavior, but stressed that it did not involve a minor and was not a criminal complaint.

The bishop promised that the diocese would work to learn the truth.

"A professional review and investigation of these matters will be made and a recommendation will be made to me," he said in a prepared statement from the altar at Epiphany.

Back in 2002, while pastoring a church in Roanoke, Rule was forced to answer questions about a relationship with student at a seminary high school.  The relationship was determined to be not enough to keep him from being a priest.

At the time, then Bishop Walter Sullivan said that rule "has demonstrated fine abilities as a pastor and has won the love and respect of parishioners around the diocese."

Abilities he may need to rely on once again, to weather this current storm.

While the diocese sorts out Rule's future, Monsignor Thomas Shreve has been appointed the administrator of the church.

The diocese did not reveal how long it will take to conduct the investigation.

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