Columbus Catholic Diocese Settles with Man Abused from 1975-80
By JoAnne Viviano
March 28, 2016
|The Rev. Ron Atwood|
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus has agreed to a financial settlement with a man who says he was repeatedly sexually abused as a teenager by a priest who worked at a diocesan high school, said an attorney who represents the man.
Mitchell Garabedian of Boston said his client was 16 when he was first abused by the Rev. Ronald Atwood in 1975. The abuse, he said, continued until 1980 and happened in Atwood's office at Bishop Ready High School on the West Side and at various locations during road trips to places such as Illinois, Michigan, Kansas and Missouri.
Garabedian said the settlement "in the low five figures" was reached in February 2015. He released the details on Monday along with information about cases he's settled since early last year involving 15 other priests and religious brothers.
"One has to wonder where the supervisors of Father Atwood were and why they weren’t protecting an innocent child," Garabedian said. "As is the case in so many clergy sexual-abuse incidences, there are probably scores of victims of Father Ronald Atwood who have not come forward."
He could not immediately provide additional information about his client's allegations.
Atwood, 72, was removed from his priest duties in July 2013, a day after the Columbus diocese received a complaint that he had abused a minor from 1976 to 1979 when he served at Bishop Ready and at St. Stephen the Martyr and St. Peter churches in Columbus.
Garabedian said he was unsure if his client made that complaint. His client, now in his mid-50s, did not want to be interviewed for this story and currently lives outside Ohio.
Robert Hoatson, a former Catholic priest who founded Road to Recovery of New Jersey to help sex-abuse survivors, said that victims consider a check signed by a diocese an acknowledgement of abuse allegations because they often are unable to bring criminal complaints in court within legal time limits.
Hoatson said his group provided support for Garabedian's client, but he did not know case details.
Judy Jones, Midwest associate director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, has encouraged Columbus Bishop Frederick Campbell to publicly list the names of all local priests who have been accused of sex abuse. Thirty other dioceses have done so, she said. A SNAP website lists 20 priests who have served in the diocese and been publicly accused.
A diocesan spokesman said the offices were closed on Monday and he was unable to provide information on Atwood.
Atwood was a diocesan priest beginning in 1969 and served at Columbus St. Aloysius Church (1969-72); Bishop Ready High School (1969-77); St. Stephen (1977-78); St. Peter (1978-82); Church of the Ascension in Johnstown (1982-91); Columbus St. Thomas Church (1991-2003); Columbus St. Joseph Cathedral (2003-04); and Columbus St. Francis of Assisi Church (2004-13).
In 1999, he was charged with exposing himself at Helsel Park on the Far East Side, one of dozens of men arrested in public-indecency stings. He pleaded no contest to public urination and paid a $150 fine.