Le­banon lawyer seeks info on abu­sive priests

Dio­cese said it would re­lease list but hasn’t done so.

Dayton Daily News - - LOCAL & STATE - By Danae King

A south­west­ern COLUM­BUS — Ohio at­tor­ney has filed a mo­tion seek­ing to com­pel the Ro­man Catholic Dio­cese of Colum­bus to re­lease in­for­ma­tion about clergy mem­bers ac­cused of sex­ual abuse.

The dio­cese said it would pub­licly re­lease a list of cred­i­bly ac­cused clergy mem­bers in Septem­ber, fol­low­ing a na­tional trend, but so far it has not done so.

Le­banon at­tor­ney Kon­rad Kircher filed the mo­tion to com­pel dis­cov­ery from the dio­cese in Franklin County Com­mon Pleas Court on Fri­day. He is rep­re­sent­ing a for­mer stu­dent at St. Charles Prepara­tory School in Bex­ley who said the late Mon­signor Thomas Ben­nett, a St. Charles teacher for more than 40 years, mo­lested him in the early 2000s.

In his mo­tion, Kircher asks for all doc­u­ments that re­fer to al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual con­tact, mis­con­duct or ex­ploita­tion by clergy from 1950 to present.

The dio­cese has not pro­vided the files, say­ing they are not rel­e­vant to the case, ac­cord­ing to court records. Kircher said they are rel­e­vant be­cause the Ro­man Catholic Church and the Catholic Dio­cese of Colum­bus have known of the prob­lem of clergy sex­ual abuse of chil­dren.

“My client was sex­u­ally mo­lested in the school year 2002 to 2003. This is in the af­ter­math of all the rev­e­la­tions of the Spot­light series from the Bos­ton Globe,” Kircher said. “Why I want these files is to show the church was aware of sim­i­lar al­le­ga­tions yet failed to warn the pub­lic, failed to pro­tect chil­dren.”

The law­suit, which orig­i­nally Any­one who might have ex­pe­ri­enced sex­ual abuse by clergy mem­bers or oth­ers as­so­ci­ated with the church is en­cour­aged by the Ro­man Catholic Dio­cese of Colum­bus to con­tact law en­force­ment and the dioce­san Vic­tims’ As­sis­tance Co­or­di­na­tor at 614-224-2251 or 866448-0217, or at helpisavail­[email protected]­bus­catholic. org. Forms for re­port­ing abuse are avail­able in Catholic par­ish and school of­fices and can be ac­cessed from the dioce­san web­site: www.colum­bus­catholic.org. was filed on July 5, in­volves 30-year-old Kevin Hei­dt­man, who said he was sex­u­ally mo­lested six times by Ben­nett while a fresh­man at the all-boys Catholic school. Two other peo­ple have come for­ward al­leg­ing abuse by Ben­nett since the suit was filed, Kircher said.

The suit names the Ro­man Catholic Dio­cese of Colum­bus, Bishop Fred­er­ick Camp­bell and St. Charles. It does not name Ben­nett be­cause he died in 2008. Hei­dt­man, who has changed his last name since mov­ing from Colum­bus, is listed only as John Doe.

The dio­cese said it doesn’t com­ment on pend­ing le­gal mat­ters.

Camp­bell said it was still com­pil­ing the list that the dio­cese promised to pub­licly re­lease when ques­tioned at a news con­fer­ence on Jan. 31, the day the Rev. Robert J. Bren­nan was named as the next bishop of Colum­bus.

“We are in the fi­nal process of or­ga­niz­ing that list,” Camp­bell said.

He added that the dioce­san chan­cel­lor is look­ing back as far as 1868, when the dio­cese was formed. “We wanted to be very care­ful with it be­cause of all the emo­tion, all the ques­tions that will sur­round it.”

Camp­bell gave no date for the list’s re­lease at that time.

Many dio­ce­ses across the coun­try re­leased in­for­ma­tion about ac­cused clergy or pledged to so af­ter a Penn­syl­va­nia grand jury re­port re­leased in Au­gust un­cov­ered wide­spread child abuse in the Catholic churches in much of the state. The twoyear in­ves­ti­ga­tion found that more than 1,000 chil­dren had been sex­u­ally abused by over 300 priests.

Since Au­gust, al­most 50 dio­ce­ses and re­li­gious or­ders have pub­licly iden­ti­fied priests, and 55 more have said they plan to in the com­ing months, the As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported last month.

In Ohio, the Steubenville and Youngstown dio­ce­ses al­ready have pub­licly re­leased the names of abu­sive priests, and the Arch­dio­cese of Cincin­nati and the Dio­cese of Toledo have posted in­for­ma­tion on their web­sites.

Sev­eral other al­le­ga­tions that have arisen in the past year against for­mer or cur­rent Colum­bus clergy mem­bers in­clude: the Rev. James Csaszar, a New Al­bany priest who killed him­self Dec. 20 fol­low­ing ac­cu­sa­tion that he had ques­tion­able com­mu­ni­ca­tion with a child while serv­ing in New Lex­ing­ton in Perry County; the Rev. Pierre Al­balaa, the ad­min­is­tra­tor for Sa­cred Heart Church in Ital­ian Vil­lage, who was ac­cused in June of abus­ing a mi­nor in Cal­i­for­nia in 2004; and Sis­ter Lisa Zuc­carelli, a nun with the Do­mini­can Sis­ters of Peace who taught at Fisher Catholic High School in Lan­caster in the 1980s, who was ac­cused in July of sex­u­ally abus­ing a stu­dent 36 years ago.

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