Three More Accuse Priest
Nassau Police Get Reports of Sex Abuse
By Steve Wick
Newsday [New York]
March 27, 2002
Three more men came forward yesterday to tell police they were sexually abused by the Rev. Eugene Vollmer, including one who said he was abused at a parish in Floral Park in 1991.
The new allegations came in the wake of a Newsday story that detailed charges by two brothers, both former altar boys, that Vollmer had sexually abused them in the late 1970s and early 1980s in parishes in both Nassau and Suffolk counties. One of the two said Vollmer had sodomized him at least 50 times.
In a written statement, the Diocese of Rockville Centre said Vollmer "had his faculties to exercise the priesthood removed" on Thursday, a day after Newsday began asking questions about him. Until that point, Vollmer had been an associate pastor at St. James Church in Seaford.
The diocese, which would not elaborate on Vollmer's status, also said it had turned over "relevant" files on Vollmer to "civil authorities," and a spokesman for the Nassau district attorney's office said they were "arranging for delivery of the materials right now." Meanwhile, Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota said yesterday that his office had had no contact with the diocese.
While diocesan officials refused to comment on the allegations being made against Vollmer, the statement said Bishop William Murphy was "extremely anguished at the suffering that has been visited on those whom Father Vollmer has apparently abused. The diocese stands ready to assist them and any others affected in any way possible."
He also said anyone who has been abused should contact his office. "If you have been abused," the statement said, "please let the church and the civil authorities know."
The two men who made the initial complaints against Vollmer, Mark and Rainer Welzel, said last week that they had reported the abuse to the diocese three times unsuccessfully. The diocese statement made no mention of those earlier reports, nor would diocese officials say if they had been contacted by law-enforcement officials about Vollmer in 1998. That year, Rainer filed a complaint with the Nassau district attorney. Investigative sources have said no criminal action was taken because the statute of limitations had expired but said law-enforcement officials forwarded the information to the diocese.
Yesterday, all three of the new reports were made directly to Nassau County police, sources said.
In an interview, one of the men who contacted police told Newsday that the abuse took place in Vollmer's bedroom at St. Thomas the Apostle rectory in West Hempstead in the early 1980s and at a home in Southampton. He said other boys were present on two occasions.
Melanie Little, a Garden City attorney who is the lawyer for a second man, who is now 24, told Newsday the sexual abuse of her client took place in Vollmer's bedroom in the rectory of Our Lady of Victory in Floral Park from 1988 to 1991.
While the diocese's statement spoke of "relevant" files pertaining to Vollmer, the statement also said there was no information pertaining to sexual abuse allegations in Vollmer's personnel file.
Joanne Novarro, a spokeswoman for Bishop William Murphy, yesterday did not return calls for comment. For several weeks, Murphy has said there were no "credible" sexual-abuse allegations against priests now working in the diocese.
Yesterday, Rainer Welzel said he was relieved that the diocese had removed Vollmer, but he wondered why it had taken so long. "Why didn't they act before?" he said. "Why did they wait so long? It says something about the diocese that they acted only after it became public."
Little said she represents a former altar boy from Our Lady of Victory in Floral Park who says he was abused by Vollmer from 1988 to 1991. "It seems to me that had it been properly handled from the beginning, my client would not have been abused," she said. "Taking action against Vollmer now is too little, too late."
The diocesan statement also complained that Newsday had incorrectly stated in its story that Vollmer was "still active" even though he had been "removed from active ministry" Thursday.
However, Vollmer's boss at St. James, the Rev. Robert Hewes, told Newsday on Monday that Vollmer told him in a note that he was taking a leave of absence.
Hewes said he held a staff meeting at St. James yesterday and urged church personnel to listen to any parishioner concerns. To this point, however, he said it's been quiet.
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