Priest, 75, Accused of Sexually Abusing Girls in 1960s
By Michael D. Sallah and David Yonke
But the aging priest who sits on a diocesan tribunal now faces his own crisis: He's accused of sexually abusing teenage girls in the 1960s.
Diocese records obtained by The Blade show he has not denied the charges and that he was moved to a job where he does not deal directly with the public.
Two of the women said they want the 75-year-old cleric removed entirely from the priesthood. "I don't believe he should ever be allowed to wear his collar again," said one woman, now 55 and living in Michigan.
Bishop James Hoffman could not be reached for comment yesterday. Father Beauregard did not return repeated phone calls.
The diocese will review the case to determine whether further action should be taken, said the Rev. Michael Billian, the chancellor.
The longtime cleric is accused of meeting in secret sessions with at least three girls between 1964 and 1966 while he was a religion instructor at Central Catholic High School. During the sessions, diocese records show, the girls were ordered to strip off their clothes.
In one case, the priest allegedly fondled the teenager while they met in a locked office at Central in 1964, records show.
In another case in 1965, the cleric allegedly removed his own clothes during a counseling session in the basement of the church rectory at Little Flower Parish, where he lived at the time, records show.
The priest, who was ordained in 1951, told the teenager at Little Flower that he was conducting a sociological study and asked her to sign a statement that she would not divulge the details of their meetings, the woman involved said.
"He told me he was writing a book," she said.
The woman at Central said she went to the priest for counseling for adolescent problems and he allegedly told her that he would help by conducting "shock therapy" on her.
She stepped forward on Aug. 8 in what is another round of allegations of sexual misconduct against a local cleric in a crisis that has enveloped the local diocese - as well as the U.S. Catholic Church.
A national victims' advocacy group said the case of Father Beauregard is rare because of his position to review the private details of broken marriages in which couples are asking for annulments - a decree by the church that a marriage never officially existed.
"I can't imagine that parishioners would feel comfortable with an admitted molester making decisions on their marriages," said David Clohessy of SNAP - Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
The woman from Central said she has struggled for decades with the memories of the private meetings. "Neither my family of origin or my immediate family know of my abuse," she told The Blade.
In a memo, Bishop Hoffman wrote that he confronted the priest about the charges on June 3, 1994 - after the first woman stepped forward - and "he did not deny them."
"It was hoped that they had been forgotten," the bishop wrote. "His body language spoke of his pain."
Both women have met with Toledo attorney Catherine Hoolahan, who is assisting in another sexual misconduct lawsuit against the diocese.
Bishop Hoffman removed Father Beauregard from active ministry - saying Mass, hearing confessions, counseling parishioners - in 1994, shortly after the elderly priest was first confronted about the charges.
The bishop allowed the cleric to continue serving on the special tribunal but not to meet with the couples. Father Billian said the paperwork is delivered to the priest's residence for review and the church picks up the documents afterward.
The chancellor explained that Father Beauregard's case is among approximately 40 that the diocese will open to the local prosecutor's office for review next week under an agreement announced Wednesday.
The prosecutor's office said it will look for possible crimes, but the statute of limitations is six years.
Father Billian said the diocese will consider whether Father Beauregard should be removed from ministry in light of the stricter standards adopted in June by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Dallas.
That landmark meeting called for all priests guilty of sexual misconduct with minors to be removed from the priesthood. Since the Dallas charter was adopted, Bishop Hoffman has barred four diocesan priests from ministry.
Father Billian said the accusations against Father Beauregard first came to the church's attention in 1994 and that two more women recently came forward with allegations against him.
The following year, the diocese implemented its Policy on Response to Child Abuse and Adult Sexual Misconduct, which for the first time established penalties, treatment, and prevention plans for diocesan employees. It also created procedures for assisting victims.
The first woman to raise allegations against Father Beauregard said she was a high school student when she went to see the priest for counseling four or five times at the behest of her family, according to the bishop's personal records.
During the last session, the priest struck her once on the posterior and ordered her to remove her clothes. He stripped down to his underwear and lay on top of her, according to Bishop Hoffman's handwritten notes. The bishop wrote that the priest did not deny the charges when confronted.
The other victim said she was experiencing enormous guilt at the time and wanted to talk to a priest.
"My guilt, as you might guess, became much worse," said the woman.
In July, she said she went to visit Lansing, Mich., Bishop Carl Mengeling, who referred her to Bishop Hoffman.
Both victims said the diocese agreed to pay for their counseling.
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