|New Priest Chosen for Canton Parish Stunned by Sex-Abuse Allegations
By Charita Crum
June 8, 2009
A pastor who grew up attending Our Lady of Peace church will take over the pulpit there, days after the parish's former priest, Thomas Crum, confessed to a 30-year-old allegation of sexual misconduct with a student at Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown. Crum has been placed on administrative leave.
Monsignor Lewis Gaetano, a priest at St. Paul parish in Canton and a faculty member at Walsh University, has assumed administrative duties at Our Lady of Peace, located at 1001 39th St. NW.
Last week, Crum, a Louisville native and St. Thomas Aquinas High School graduate, admitted to diocesan authorities and police in Youngstown that the accusation was true.
The Rev. John Jerek, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown, said the allegation involving Crum was brought to the attention of the diocese through police. Citing the ongoing investigation, he declined to reveal the name or even the gender of the victim, but said no lawsuit has been filed by the victim.
State law limits the time that a child sex-abuse victim can file a lawsuit to age 30. Prior to 2006, the time limit was age 20.
Before coming to Our Lady of Peace in 2005, Crum served at a number of parishes in the diocese, including assistant pastor at St. Mary parish in Massillon in 1975. He was assigned to St. Anthony's parish in Canton in 1992 but took a leave of absence in 1994.
When asked for details behind the leave of absence, Jerek said, "I can't answer that. Those are private files that are part of his personnel record."
Jerek also declined to identify the facility where Crum checked in after being removed from his post last week by Bishop George V. Murry. Jerek said Crum will be evaluated, and the facility will recommend "either some course of treatment or release him."
"Upon release, he would not function as a priest," he said. "He will not be able to live in the rectory."
Tracy Jeffries' family recently left Our Lady of Peace for another parish, but her family's roots there run deep. Jeffries said her reaction upon hearing the news about Crum was more sorrow than anger.
"His mother lives in Louisville. My heart went out to her and his family as well as all the parishioners at OLOP — and the victim, of course," she said.
Jeffries said her husband, Jim, grew up attending Our Lady of Peace, and their four children attended the school.
"They all received their sacraments there," she said.
Jeffries said her family is considering returning to Our Lady of Peace.
"We think very highly of Monsignor Gaetano," she said.
"He will bring the community the healing and unity it needs," Jerek said of Gaetano.
Murry will hold a news conference at diocese offices today at 3:30 p.m.
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