Former New Haven Priest Removed from Parish in Walkerton over Allegation of Past Sexual Abuse
By Kevin Kilbane
January 16, 2014
The Rev. James F. Seculoff has been removed as pastor of St. Patrick Catholic Church in Walkerton after the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend received what it deemed to be a credible allegation of sexual abuse.
The abuse allegedly took place about 40 years ago involving a person who then was a youth, Sean McBride, diocesan communications director, said Wednesday. McBride declined to say if the alleged victim is male or female, saying, “We really are doing our best to protect that person's identity.”
The alleged abuse took place within the diocese, McBride said, but he declined to specify the location.
The alleged victim contacted the diocese to report the case Dec. 16, McBride said. The allegation was presented to the diocesan review board, which deemed it credible, he said.
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades removed Seculoff as pastor of St. Patrick and from public ministry before the Masses last weekend at St. Patrick, McBride said. Seculoff, a Fort Wayne native, also offered his resignation as pastor, which was accepted by Rhoades, and officially retired.
Walkerton is located northwest of Plymouth, about 80 miles northwest of Fort Wayne.
The diocese has received no other reports of alleged abuse from other locations where Seculoff has served, McBride said.
McBride said the case has been referred to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican in Rome for a decision, which could include removing Seculoff from the priesthood. McBride was unsure how long it would be before the Congregation issues a decision.
The diocese also has reported the case to the appropriate civil legal authorities, he said.
Seculoff, who was ordained a priest May 26, 1962, served from July 2007-July 2013 as pastor at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in New Haven. Rhoades appointed him to take over Aug. 1 as pastor at St. Patrick in Walkerton.
Before becoming pastor at New Haven, Seculoff served for about three years as pastor of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in South Bend, the South Bend Tribune reported.
St. Patrick parishioners learned of a situation in a letter from Rhoades, which the diocesan vicar for that area read to people attending last weekend's Masses, McBride said.
Rhoades also appointed the Rev. Jan Klimczyk, a member of the clergy staff at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, to serve as administrator of the parish during this time of transition.
The diocese also will provide follow-up care to help St. Patrick parishioners through the situation, McBride said. Care also will be provided at any other locations where Seculoff has served, if it is needed.
This is the second time in seven months a priest in the diocese has been removed from public ministry because of an allegation of past sexual abuse.
The Rev. Cornelius Ryan, a member of the Congregation of Holy Cross religious order, which is based in South Bend, was removed by his order June 10 from his assignment as administrator at St. Joseph Catholic Church-Hessen Cassel, on Fort Wayne's far south side.
Ryan, who had served as administrator at St. Joseph since December 2011, was alleged to have sexually abused a minor while serving in Africa about 20 years ago.
Ryan was filling a vacancy created when Rhoades in December 2011 removed the Rev. Thom Lombardi as pastor of St. Joseph-Hessen Cassel because of an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor during his service at a previous parish.