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  Ex-Area Priest Accused by Second Man of Sexual Advance

By Dennis M . Mahoney dmahoney@dispatch.com
The Columbus Dispatch [Ohio]
February 12, 2006

http://www.dispatch.com/news-story.php?story=dispatch/2006/02/12/20060212-C9-02.html

A second man has accused a former Columbus Catholic Diocese priest of molesting him in the late 1970s.

The new allegation comes from a man, now 44, who said that in 1978, when he was a highschool senior, he used to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana with the Rev. Samuel Ritchey in the rectory of St. Bernadette Catholic Church in Lancaster.

Ritchey, former pastor at Sacred Heart Church on the North Side, was barred permanently from performing priestly functions last month after the diocese concluded he had sexually abused a male high-school student in 1977.

The new allegation is from an out-of-state man who would tell his story only if not identified.

The man said that for now, he doesn't intend to sue the diocese. But he has hired Konrad Kircher, a Mason lawyer who has represented more than 100 abuse victims in lawsuits against the Cincinnati Archdiocese.

Kircher said that his client has reported the allegation to the diocese and that he and the accuser hope to meet in early March with Monsignor Stephan Moloney, diocesan chancellor, to discuss it.

Robin Miller, spokeswoman for the diocese, said in an e-mail response that the diocese was contacted by an attorney representing an out-of-state resident, asking for a meeting to discuss Ritchey. But she said no specific allegation has been made.

Efforts to contact Ritchey were unsuccessful. Miller said Ritchey has told the diocese he will not talk to the media.

The new accuser said he was a model student at Fisher Catholic High School in Lancaster through his junior year, and was a star athlete and member of the National Honor Society. He said his family attended St. Bernadette, where Ritchey lived while teaching at Fisher Catholic.

But in his senior year, "I kind of came off the tracks" and began drinking and using drugs.

He said Ritchey came to his home and told his parents that he was experienced in dealing with troubled teenagers, and would "provide me guidance."

Over the next few months, the man said, he spent time at the St. Bernadette rectory with Ritchey on 10 to 12 occasions.

"He provided me with alcohol and marijuana," the man said.

One night, the man said, he fell asleep on the couch at the rectory. When he awoke, Ritchey's "hands were all over my legs, and he was basically massaging my thighs and what not."

"I woke up pretty surprised. I don't remember the exact words he used, but he wanted to perform oral sex on me . . ."

He told Ritchey no.

"He wasn't like aggressive and forceful," he said. "He knew I was a troubled kid and he was giving something a shot and it didn't pan out for him."

He said he didn't see Ritchey again after the incident until years later, but didn't talk about what happened.

The man said he told his mother about Ritchey within a year after the molestation, which occurred when he was 17. But she didn't report it, he said, because she felt her son's past problems hurt his credibility.

Through the years, the man said, he considered reporting Ritchey. He said he is telling his story now to lend credence to the first allegation.

"I'm not out for revenge," he said. "I feel sorry for Father Ritchey. I pity him. I just think it's terrible what he's done, and I think he's got to live with it."

He said what happened to him was not as difficult as it was for others, and "I don't consider myself a traumatized guy."

If he were to sue, the man said he won't profit from it.

While Ritchey was barred by Bishop Frederick Campbell from performing priestly duties, he can be expelled from the priesthood only by the Vatican, a process known as laicization.

dmahoney@dispatch.com

 
 

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