|Sex Abuse Victim Sues Priest
July 2, 2011
ELYRIA - A victim of sex abuse at the hands of a former Roman Catholic priest sued the priest, as well as the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, former Bishop Anthony Pilla and two other Catholic institutions on Friday.
The former priest, Patrick O’Connor, had sexual contact with the victim while he was assigned to St. Jude Church in Elyria. O’Connor, 53, pleaded guilty in 2009 to corruption of a minor and was sentenced to 90 days in jail and three years of probation.
The lawsuit accuses O’Connor of sexual abuse and the diocese and Pilla of negligence and conspiracy for allowing O’Connor to serve as a priest and allegedly covering up knowledge of his sexual misconduct.
During his 2009 sentencing hearing, O’Connor apologized to the tearful teen, who was 15 in 1997 when the lawsuit said the molestation began after he met O’Connor while playing basketball at the playground near the church’s rectory.
“My actions were inexcusable, and I betrayed a sacred trust,” O’Connor told the teen during the hearing.
But JD Tomlinson, one of the now 29-year-old victim’s lawyers, said his client is still trying to exorcise the demons left by the sex abuse O’Connor - who also was classified as a sex offender and required to register his address with law enforcement - subjected him to.
He said because of the abuse, the victim has engaged in self-destructive behavior including problems with sexuality and substance abuse. The victim, Tomlinson said, still has a negative reaction whenever he sees the type of car O’Connor drove at the time of the molestation.
“It was extremely traumatic for him,” Tomlinson said.
O’Connor resigned from the priesthood shortly after the teen contacted the diocese in June 2008 and leveled the sexual abuse allegation against him. At the time, O’Connor was serving as chaplain to the Sisters of the Most Holy Trinity and Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine, both in Euclid.
He had been given that assignment - in part to keep him away from children - by the Diocese in 2007 after a four-year administrative leave from the church while unrelated sexual abuse allegations against him were investigated. The church ultimately cleared O’Connor of allegations he had sexually abused another child while serving as a priest at a Cuyahoga Falls church.
When the first round of allegations against O’Connor came to light in 2003, he resigned from his post as chaplain to the Elyria Police Department.
The lawsuit accused Pilla of reaching a secret settlement with the victim in the Cuyahoga Falls case. In exchange for a cash payment, the victim in that case agreed to keep the settlement confidential and O’Connor continued as a priest.
Bob Tayek, a spokesman for the diocese, said Friday that he couldn’t comment until the church’s lawyers have a chance to review the lawsuit.
The victim was a parishioner of the church, but after meeting O’Connor on the playground, the two began to “hang out,” according to the lawsuit, filed in Lorain County Common Pleas Court.
The two would drink and smoke as well as view pornography together at St. Jude’s, the lawsuit said. The relationship continued on after they first met in 1997 and they would attend movies, dinners and a racquetball club.
O’Connor also once took the victim to St. Borromeo Seminary, another defendant in the case, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit asks for more than $250,000 in damages.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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