Lebanon lawyer seeks info on abusive priests
Diocese said it would release list but hasn’t done so.
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.