Report: 26 Minors Accuse 18 Lafayette Diocese Priests of Sex Abuse

By Tom Coyne
WHAS [Indiana]
December 31, 2003

Eighteen Roman Catholic priests serving in north-central Indiana's Diocese of Lafayette have been accused of sexually abusing 26 minors since 1950, Bishop William L. Higi said Wednesday.

Accusations against nine of the priests were deemed credible and they were removed from the ministry, Higi said in an article published in The Catholic Moment, the diocesan newspaper.

Higi apologized to people in the diocese.

"All Catholics, I believe, grieve deeply that victims and their families and loved ones have suffered so deeply because of this intolerable sin and betrayal," Higi said in a statement accompanying the report. "Those of us who are priests also grieve. It is my prayer people will not condemn us, the vast majority of priests, for the egregious acts of the few."

None of the priests have been charged criminally, he said. Two lawsuits were filed, one of which was dismissed, he said.

Higi said one non-ordained church employee and one volunteer also had been accused of sexual abuse by minors.

The Lafayette diocese is the third Indiana diocese this year to report sexual abuse cases since 1950.

On Dec. 11, Bishop John D'Arcy of the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese reported 33 minors were sexually abused by 16 Roman Catholic priests since 1950.

On Dec. 18, Evansville Bishop Gerald A. Gettelfinger reported that 15 priests had been accused of sexually abusing 22 minors. Three were found innocent, four admitted to the allegations and were removed from ministry, and eight were dead by the time the allegations were brought against them, and those cases were not investigated.

Bishop Dale J. Melczek is scheduled to release statistics for the Gary diocese on Friday. The reports are part of a national report scheduled to be released on the scope of the sexual abuse crisis in the church since 1950.

Higi said he believes it is important members of the diocese know the local statistics.

"You need to know the experience of this diocese," he said.

Higi was criticized in 1997 following a series by The Indianapolis Star and News detailing sexual misconduct among his diocese's priests.

That three-day series alleged that at least 16 current and former priests in the diocese were accused of sexual abuse or misconduct over the previous 25 years. It also said diocese officials admitted to 12 troubled priests and as many as 40 victims in the previous dozen years.

The report issued Wednesday did not identify any priests, but said all of the abuse charges deemed credible occurred before 1986. Higi said he prays for all those involved.

"I cannot begin to explain the ache in my heart for those who have been abused. I hold them up to the Lord in my daily prayers, begging God to bring them to healing," he said.

Higi said detailed financial records of money spent on sexual abuse allegations do not exist prior to 1988. Since then, the diocese has spent $555,586, he said.

That includes $147,201 for medications and therapy for victims; $324,007 for medications and therapy for the alleged perpetrators; and $84,378 for attorney fees.

No legal settlements have been paid, he said.


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