Cleveland Ex-Priest Faces New Molestation Claims

By Donna J. Robb
Plain Dealer [Cleveland, Ohio]
March 30, 2002

Akron - A former Catholic priest who told The Plain Dealer and the national news media that he is a reformed pedophile is under investigation for allegedly molesting a 6-year-old boy last year.

The boy's father said that he, too, was molested by former priest Neil Conway more than 20 years ago, investigators said.

Capt. Larry Momchilov said yesterday that the Summit County Sheriff's Department is investigating the allegations. Detectives have not interviewed Conway about the latest allegation, and Conway did not return a call seeking comment. The molesting began, the father contends, after he and the mother were divorced and she took the child to Conway's farm in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The father said he previously had taken the child to Conway's farm but knew that he had been a pedophile and insisted that the boy not be left alone with the former priest.

Conway, 65, told reporters this month that he had molested eight boys during the 22 years that he was a priest in the Cleveland Catholic Diocese. Conway said his most recent victim was 12 when he molested him in 1985.

The father and his son were interviewed last Saturday by Summit County detectives.

The 6-year-old was assaulted repeatedly last year, his father said yesterday. The Plain Dealer does not name alleged victims of sex crimes and therefore can't name the father, who now lives in Michigan.

The father, who grew up in Cleveland, said he, too, was molested by Conway, in 1977. He said he did not learn that Conway had molested other boys until he read a news story in March 2000 about a man he knew in childhood who was suing the diocese because he had been molested by Conway.

Conway subsequently told his story to The Plain Dealer and then was interviewed by Newsweek magazine and on the television show "Nightline."

He confessed to molesting eight boys while he was a priest more than 15 years ago. But he said he had stopped molesting, and he complained that the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland had not offered him adequate rehabilitation assistance.

"I thought I had been the only one he had touched. I didn't know there were others, and now I am struggling with the guilt of not coming forward sooner. If I had, maybe no one else would have been hurt," the 41-year-old father said, choking back tears.

The man remains a devout Catholic and says he forgave Conway years ago, when he assumed that he had been the only victim. He even named Conway his son's godfather to show, he said, that he had totally forgiven the former priest.

The father said his son called Conway "Grandy."

The father also said he was always present whenever Conway was with his son until he divorced the boy's mother.

The father watched his son being interviewed last weekend by police and a psychologist. "As soon as I heard him tell them that Grandy had touched his penis, I ran from the room. I couldn't listen to the rest," he said.

Conway lives in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park on land he inherited from his parents. He has said he used the land and horses to lure children there.

"My Grandy has a pony for me to ride," the 6-year-old told his father and detectives.

"Yeah, that's exactly how he got me, too," the father said.


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