List of Accused Priests out Today
By Rosa Salter Rodriguez
September 18, 2018
The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend will release names today of “credibly accused” priests and deacons of sexually abusing minors, according to a statement released Monday.
The names will be posted on the diocese's website, www.diocesefwsb.org, at 1 p.m. and through diocesan media channels, the statement said, fulfilling a pledge the Rev. Kevin C. Rhoades, the diocese's bishop, made at a news conference Aug. 17.
The list will likely include about 20 names, according to previous statements by the diocese and BishopAccountability.org, an independent, nonprofit website chronicling Catholic clerical sexual abuse for about two decades.
In late 2003, the late Bishop John M. D'Arcy issued a public accounting saying 17 priests in the diocese had been found to have sexually abused 33 individuals since 1950. Sixteen abused minors and one had abused an adult, he said then.
D'Arcy, who had actively pushed for removal of abusive priests in his previous assignment in the Archdiocese of Boston, did not provide names at that time. But he said he had “removed” 12 from ministry and others were dead.
He said a large part of the accusations took place in the 1980s and the last one involving physical contact took place in 1987. The diocese between 1985 and 2002 paid about $1.36 million to settle claims, pay lawyers and provide counseling for priests and victims, he reported.
Rhoades has had at least five cases come to light since becoming bishop in early 2010, according to news accounts or BishopAccountability.org:
• Thomas C. Lombardi: priest at St. Louis-Besancon and St. Joseph Hessen Cassel, placed on leave in late 2011 after accusation at St. Louis reported as not involving physical contact; could not be investigated by police because the male accuser did not want to come forward.
• James F. Seculoff: former principal of Huntington Catholic High School who at time of alleged abuse (around 1970) became superintendent of diocesan schools; “retired” in January 2014 after four accusers came forward.
• Cornelius J. Ryan: Holy Cross father who admitted abusing a boy while on assignment in Uganda, Africa; had been placed as administrator at St. Joseph-Hessen Cassel Catholic Church in Fort Wayne after allegations against Lombardi.
• Gerald Funcheon: A priest of the Crosier order, ordained in the diocese in 1965, sued here in a dismissed case in 2007 and named in multiple cases in Minnesota after being removed as priest in 1992.
• Eldon J. Miller: most recent case announced by Rhoades in August; accused in 2015 by woman, 60, in Mishawaka who said she was abused in the 1960s; died in 2008; news accounts say three other accusers have come forward.
Meanwhile, BishopAccountability.org has listed seven other clerics with ties to Fort Wayne-South Bend as “publicly accused.” They are:
• James R. Blume: Former Holy Cross brother ordained in 1980 and “forced to resign” in 1989; laicized in 2007; sued and convicted on criminal charges in Wisconsin.
• James T. Burtchaell: former University of Notre Dame professor and provost accused of conduct with young men in and before 1991; priestly faculties removed; died in 2015.
• William J. Ehrman: accused by three women of abuse; held position at St. John the Baptist Church in New Haven; D'Arcy found accounts “credible” in 2002; died in 1983.
• Paul Francis LeBrun: Holy Cross brother accused of sexually abusing boys in Fort Wayne-South Bend and Arizona; convicted and sentenced to 111 years in Arizona in 2006 and subject of five settled lawsuits in Phoenix, Arizona.
• Ralph Luczak: Holy Cross priest accused in 2003 by a woman of molesting her in 1969 while at a retreat house in the diocese; died in 1979.
• Robert Mahoney: sued twice in early 1990s by plaintiff who alleged abuse at schools in South Bend/Mishawaka area in early 1970s and 1980s; suits were dismissed and Mahoney was laicized in 2006.
• Richard Stieglitz: Priest at Fort Wayne's Queen of Angels parish who came under suspicion for adopting four Haitian youth in 1992; forced to resign in 1993; sued twice, in 1994 and 2010; laicized in 2007.
Rhoades promised the list in response to a wide-ranging grand jury report released Aug. 14, which found that more than 300 priests had abused minors in six dioceses in Pennsylvania. That included the Diocese of Harrisburg, where he served as bishop immediately before becoming bishop of the local diocese.
He said at a news conference in Fort Wayne the names would help validate victims and help them heal.
Rhoades was mentioned in the report as having taken steps to report cases and remove offending priests from the priesthood. Subsequent to the report, he was suspected of abuse, but the Dauphin County district attorney's office in Pennsylvania found the allegation baseless after an investigation.