|Lawsuit against Local Priest Dropped; Former Associate Pastor at Akron Parish Denies Sex Abuse Alleg
By Colette M. Jenkins
October 31, 2011
A civil lawsuit against a local priest accused of sexual misconduct with a minor has been dropped at the plaintiff's request.
Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court online records show the lawsuit, filed Aug. 12 against the Rev. Matthew Ischay and the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, was dismissed Oct. 17.
Ischay, 62, had served as an associate pastor at St. Paul Roman Catholic Church in Akron for more than a year, until Cleveland Bishop Richard G. Lennon placed him on administrative leave Aug. 26.
Ischay's removal from the church came after the diocese was notified of the lawsuit alleging that the priest sexually abused a child in the late 1970s.
Ischay, via his attorney, denied the allegations.
"Father Ischay is relieved that the complaint has been dismissed," said Walter Lucas, who represents Ischay. "In any event, Father Ischay adamantly denies the allegations that were put forth in the lawsuit."
Although the lawsuit has been dropped, Ischay's status with the diocese has not changed. He still is prohibited from performing public ministry, wearing clerical attire or residing on parish property.
"The review board is still looking into his case and will submit a recommendation to the bishop as soon as the investigation is complete," said Robert Tayek, spokesman for the diocese. "Right now, nothing has changed from the diocese's viewpoint."
Cleveland attorney Marc G. Doumbas filed the lawsuit, which lists John Doe as the plaintiff. He said he asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed because the statute of limitations has expired.
"The fact that [Ischay] has been removed is a victory in itself. There is no question that he has done things inappropriately," Doumbas said. "Since the lawsuit was filed, four other victims have come forward and a couple of them fall within the statute.
"There is also a provision in the law that would allow us to file again, if we can show that the defendant interfered with the discovery of the abuse."
No other lawsuits have been filed against Ischay.
Doumbas said his client (now 46 or 47 years old) reports being abused more than once by Ischay at church activities away from parish property and at Put-in-Bay, where Ischay took groups of boys on outings. Doumbas' client and the other men who have contacted him alleging abuse said Ischay supplied them with marijuana and alcohol.
Doumbas said his client's repressed memory of his abuse was triggered at a class reunion last year when he talked with some classmates.
Ohio law sets a 12-year statute of limitations for victims of childhood abuse to file claims or seek charges against their abusers. The time limit begins to run when the victim reaches the age of 18. It does not stop running based on the victim's failure to recall the abuse because of repressed memories.
Doumbas' client alleges he was abused while Ischay was at St. Richard parish in North Olmsted. According to diocesan records, Ischay was assigned as associate pastor of the parish after he was ordained in 1975.
Ischay left St. Richard in 1981 for an assignment as associate pastor at St. Thomas the Apostle in Sheffield Lake, where he served until 1986. From there, he served as an associate at St. Francis de Sales in Parma for a year. He was assigned as pastor of Blessed Sacrament in 1987 and served the west Cleveland parish until it closed in April 2010 as part of a diocesan reconfiguration.
Since then, he has been parochial vicar at Akron's St. Paul, which has a school with nearly 200 students in pre-kindergarten to eighth grade.
"Hopefully, this man will never be put in a place where he can hurt anyone again," Doumbas said. "I know that this is a very painful issue, but I encourage anyone who has been through this to come forward, because to do nothing is the wrong thing. That's what empowers the abuser."
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