|Bonita Retiree Accused of Sexual Abuse
By Kathleen Cullinan
Naples Daily News
February 12, 2008
As a teenager in working-class, 1970s Toledo, Tom Ferguson was all curly red hair, a middle child of seven kids, searching for something solid outside his splitting home.
His parents were in the middle of a divorce. Ferguson's older brothers, he says, had their own concerns. He wanted to set an example for his kid siblings, so on Monday nights he joined a local youth group at Immaculate Conception Church.
There, Ferguson says he became closer to his longtime family dentist, Glen Shrimplin — then a deacon, now a 74-year-old Bonita Springs retiree. Ferguson traveled to Lee County this week to file suit against Shrimplin claiming, 30 years later, sexual abuse.
"It appears the more vulnerable I was, the more ready he was to abuse," Ferguson said Tuesday, after a press conference outside the courthouse in downtown Fort Myers. "It means the world to me to be sure he's not abusing anymore.
"I didn't stop him before. It's time to stop him now."
Several attempts to reach Glen Shrimplin at home on Tuesday were unsuccessful.
In the suit, filed in Lee County Circuit Court, Ferguson is seeking more than $15,000.
He said he chose to sue in Florida because "the worst of the abuse happened" in Fort Lauderdale, where he said Shrimplin took him on vacation in 1975.
No church officials are named in the suit.
Abuse claims against Shrimplin aren't new: the Toledo diocese settled with an alleged victim of his in 2004, according to spokeswoman Sally Oberski. It was also around then that Dave Barciz and another, unnamed person sued Shrimplin in Ohio over similar accusations.
Shrimplin has long since left the ministry, Oberski said: he pulled out voluntarily in 1987.
Nonetheless, she said, on Nov. 30 of last year, after the various allegations and the lawsuit were compiled and sent to the Vatican for review, the Catholic Church stripped him of his "clergy faculties" altogether.
At the time the lawsuit was filed, Shrimplin was quoted in news reports adamantly denying he'd abused children.
In Florida, the Diocese of Venice has been alerted to Shrimplin's standing, chancellor Volodymyr Smeryk said. He has "no ministry involvement whatsoever" here.
Speaking by telephone from his home in North Carolina, Barciz said his lawsuit is still pending in court. He said his abuse brought years of torment and felled childhood heroes in the church who he now believes turned a blind eye to criminal acts.
"I thought, my God, if there's anybody that they're going to rally around, it would have been me," Barciz, who stayed active in the church for years into his adulthood. "Hell no. Not a word. Only one priest in the Diocese of Toledo contacted my mother (and said,) 'Tell Dave I believe him.'"
Barciz said he was like Ferguson, a child of divorce who took Shrimplin up on his offers of rides home. Ferguson told reporters Tuesday Shrimplin would end youth group sessions by having all the teenage boys kiss each other — and the deacon — flush on the lips.
"We all thought this was strange and odd, but he was very convincing" that this was a new-wave ritual in the church, Ferguson said. "We bought into it."
After the trip to Fort Lauderdale, which he said was meant to dazzle "a poor kid" for whom vacation typically meant a day trip to an amusement park, Ferguson said he pulled away from Shrimplin. "I became withdrawn — as I look back now, I see the signs of depression."
Another bout of depression more recently prompted Ferguson to file suit, he said. He's married now, a father and an information technology consultant. He and Barciz both said they feel disaffected from the church as an institution, though not from god or spirituality.
"The lawsuit — I don't know what's going to happen with it. Probably not much," Ferguson allowed as the reporters cleared off. "If he were willing to come forward and apologize to his victims, I could certainly find my way to forgive."
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