Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Priests accused of more abuse


Allegations added to suit against Covington diocese

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

BURLINGTON - Three people have publicly joined a class-action suit that claims 21 priests abused more than 150 victims in the Diocese of Covington for decades while church officials did nothing to stop the misconduct.

Court papers filed in Boone County Circuit Court by Cincinnati attorney Stan Chesley on Tuesday outline the new allegations, listing for the first time the number of priests that may be involved.

According to the court papers, a diocesan priest also arranged for a woman's abortion after he made her pregnant.

In an effort to keep a potential class-action lawsuit in Boone County, Chesley and his co-counsel presented three more people who say they were sexually abused by priests "numerous times'' in Boone County.

The potential class of more than 150 victims and the allegations against the 21 priests are based "upon information and belief,'' Chesley's amended complaint says.

"We are deeply saddened that individuals suffered abuse at the hands of some of our priests,'' the Rev. Gerald Reinersman, chancellor and general vicar of the Diocese of Covington, said in a statement released Tuesday night.

Chesley's pleading also named two priests not previously identified as alleged abusers.

One is the late Rev. Paul Ciangetti, the former pastor of Mary Queen of Heaven Church in Boone County, who is accused of abusing an altar boy.

The other is Rev. James Aloysius Brown, who is accused of arranging and paying for a young woman's abortion after he had sex with her and she became pregnant.

Representatives of the Diocese of Covington failed to report alleged incidents of sexual abuse by priests to authorities as required, Chesley's amended complaint says.

From about 1956, information on the sexual abuse of minors by diocesan priests has been concealed from the public, including parents of children in schools and parishes where the alleged perpetrators were assigned, as well as from family members of employees of the diocese, the court filings charge.

"Victims have chosen different paths to bring their complaints forward,'' Reinersman said in his statement. "Many complaints have been resolved through an honest dialogue with church officials, and we encourage anyone who has suffered abuse to choose that path. We will respond with compassion and respect for the dignity of those who come forward.

"Other victims have chosen to pursue lawsuits,'' Reinersman said. "While choosing a lawsuit does not lessen the hurt suffered, these complaints unfortunately must be resolved through the civil courts, and we must let the court process work.''

Brown, a priest who was assigned to counsel children in the Diocesan Children's Home in Fort Mitchell, is not listed among the ordained priests in the diocesan directory.

That prompted diocesan spokesman Tim Fitzgerald to speculate that Brown was a priest ordained elsewhere or was a member of a religious order who formerly worked in the Diocese of Covington.

The diocese could not offer information on Brown's whereabouts.

Chesley's motion also seeks to add the Rev. Roger Foys, who was installed as the bishop of the Diocese of Covington last July, as a defendant because he is the legal representative of the diocese.

The new allegations put forward in Chesley's motion include:

• Ciangetti abused an unidentified man starting when he was a 13-year-old altar boy at Mary Queen of Heaven Church in Boone County in 1972 and continuing until 1976. The acts allegedly occurred at the boy's home, the church and Mary Queen of Heaven School. Now a married law enforcement officer in Northern Kentucky, "the first sexual experience in (his) life was the sexual abuse he suffered from Father Ciangetti,'' the motion claims.

The fondling and other sexual abuse occurred "without ... consent and against his will, and as a direct ... result of defendant Diocese's pattern or practice of concealment and toleration of acts of sexual misconduct by its priests,'' the motion claimed. Father Ciangetti died in 1995.

• An unidentified woman, now a grandmother and Greater Cincinnati business woman, who was a resident of the Diocesan Children's Home in Fort Mitchell from 1963 to 1966 when Brown was assigned to counsel children there. Brown provided her with alcoholic drinks, seduced her and engaged in sexual intercourse with her in the boys' infirmary at the children's home, Chesley's motion said.

The court records do not list her age at the time.

Eventually, the plaintiff became pregnant, the motion said, and "Father Brown arranged for an abortion to be performed ... outside the United States. Before leaving the United States, Father Brown allegedly stayed with Jane Doe at a motel near the airport before traveling outside the country, where an abortion was performed on her," the motion said.

• "Richard Roe," now married and a supervisor of security at a large institution in Greater Cincinnati, was sexually abused by the Rev. Louis Holtz, a former teacher at Newport Catholic High School where "Roe" then was a student.

According to the filing, he was 13 when the abuse began in 1973. The abuse continued until 1976, the papers said.

The incidents allegedly occurred at Holtz's cabin at Kincaid Lake, at Holtz's residences at St. Anne's Convent in Melbourne and in Fort Thomas, at Newport Catholic High School in Newport, the complaint states.

Holtz and the Diocese of Covington have settled out of court in another case. In that one, Bernard Gerhardstein of Fort Thomas accused Holtz of abuse at Holy Family Convent and St. Phillip's in Melbourne.

Northern Kentucky native Mark Fischer, now living in Montana, also has sued the diocese, claiming he was sexually abused by Holtz in the 1970s, starting when he was 13. The church is taking steps to defrock Holtz as agreed to in the settlement with Gerhardstein.

Holtz has repeatedly refused to comment on the case.

Chesley said he did not want to comment much about the case, but said the new details about the alleged abuse in Boone County are "very significant'' and show that it is appropriate to have the suit proceed as a class-action for these incidents in Boone County and the surrounding area.

Chesley, who has been granted the right to view the diocese's secret archives for preparation of the lawsuit, said he has not yet received the archive documents.

The allegations contained in the new pleading are from victims who have come forward, he said.

E-mail cschroeder@enquirer.com




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