Thursday, March 20, 2003

Parish united in support of priest accused of abuse

The Associated Press

VAN WERT, Ohio - Blue ribbons are tied to the doors of St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church, a show of support for a priest who has been on leave since January after being accused of sexually abusing a teen in the 1980s.

Church members have written letters to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Toledo asking that the Rev. Joseph Schmelzer be reinstated.

Mary Pohlman said Schmelzer is the best priest she's seen at the church she has attended 56 years.

Schmelzer was accused of abusing a teenager from 1983 to 1985. Jon Schoonmaker, of Adrian, Mich., said the priest began touching him when he was 16. He said the priest gave him alcohol and molested him when he was 19.

Schmelzer denies the allegations. His attorney, Richard Karcher of Toledo, said the priest was cleared of the charges when they were first leveled a decade ago.

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