Prosecutor Didn't Get Names of Four Who Faced Allegations
By David Briggs and James F. McCarty
Cleveland Plain Dealer
April 11, 2002
At least four priests who, according to court records and sources, have been named in past child sex-abuse allegations were left off the list of accused clerics released by the church this week.
The four include a pastor holding one of the most prominent pulpits in the diocese, who sources said has been accused in the past of sexually abusing a 16-year-old boy.
Church officials said yesterday they are investigating whether the pastor should be publicly named - like nearly two dozen other active or former priests were on Monday - and suspended from the ministry pending a criminal investigation.
Also yesterday, diocesan officials confirmed that past allegations against another cleric, former priest Daniel Nealon, had been overlooked when the list of accused was prepared. They said the Nealon allegations will be added to those turned over to prosecutors in response to a subpoena.
The diocese on Monday suspended nine active priests and identified 12 retired or former clergymen who have been named in past child sex-abuse allegations, saying information about those claims would be forwarded to prosecutors.
At the time, church spokesman Robert Tayek said he believed the list of 21, plus another priest suspended two weeks ago, included all the clerics accused of child sex abuse in this diocese.
Tayek said the diocese did not include the Rev. Anthony Muzic on the list because officials don't believe allegations against him were credible.
Muzic, now retired but still saying Sunday Mass, was accused in a 1993 lawsuit of abusing a North Olmsted altar boy in the 1960s after plying him with wine.
In the case of the fourth unnamed cleric, Tayek said, the diocese is aware only of allegations that the former priest abused an adult.
Two highly placed church sources, however, say this former priest was accused of abusing at least two boys from a West Side Cleveland parish in the 1980s. At least one of those cases resulted in a financial settlement with the diocese, one of those sources said.
Meanwhile, the prominent diocesan pastor has not been publicly suspended, despite what sources said were past accusations leveled against him for sexually abusing a 16-year-old boy. Asked if the pastor's name will be made public and provided to prosecutors, Tayek said, "We're still investigating the matter at this time."
But Cuyahoga County Prosecutor William Mason, who on Friday subpoenaed all information regarding child sex abuse by church employees, said he doesn't want the diocese selecting which allegations should be examined.
"We've asked for all of their records, not just those that they deem to be valid," Mason said. He wants to receive the records by tomorrow.
In an interview last month, Auxiliary Bishop A. James Quinn said he believes the 1993 allegations against Muzic were false and considers the priest exonerated.
Tayek added yesterday that the alleged victim in the Muzic case voluntarily withdrew his suit.
But the accuser and his attorneys maintain the allegations are true. They say they dropped the lawsuit only after realizing that too much time had passed under the law to prevail in court.
"My story is true and I'll stand by it till the day I die," said Robert Harrison, now 51, of St. Petersburg, Fla.
Harrison said Muzic sometimes would say Mass at St. Brendan's Church with no clothing underneath his vestments, and would require the altar boys to do the same. Once, Harrison said, he spent the night with Muzic at the rectory and was sexually assaulted.
The diocese paid for his counseling for about a year, Harrison said, but then cut him off.
"This stuff has got to stop," Harrison said. "I've put it behind me, but I had some horrible years."
Attorneys Patrick Holland and John Ricotta also wondered why Muzic was not included in the church's list of accused priests.
"Who are they to determine what allegations are legitimate and which are not?" Ricotta said.
Nealon, contacted yesterday, was horrified that his name would be turned over to prosecutors.
While still a priest, Nealon was accused of abusing a deaf boy of about 13 from North Olmsted in the late 1980s.
Nealon, 46, now a Shaker Heights lawyer and divorced father of two, denied the allegations.
He said he befriended the youth for a few months, took him to juggling exhibitions and introduced him to the unicycle. When he was transferred to another parish to become pastor, Nealon speculated, the youth became angry.
"I was alone with him once and never did anything to this young child," said Nealon.
He said the allegations against him were investigated at the time and that he was exonerated.
As for the former West Side priest who sources said was accused of molesting boys, diocesan officials said the only sexual allegation they are aware of involved an adult.
That former priest was named along with the diocese in a 1987 lawsuit alleging that the priest had sexually assaulted an adult male, court records show.
The diocese also announced yesterday that bishops in Rochester, N.Y., Joliet, Ill., and British Columbia have suspended three priests on loan from the Cleveland diocese who were named in the list.
Tayek said in all three cases, officials at those dioceses were informed of the past abuse allegations.
But apparently not all local church authorities were told.
The Diocese of Joliet said the Rev. Gary Berthiaume was relieved Saturday of his duties as chaplain at Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill.
The Rev. Joseph Brodnick, 58, resigned effective Tuesday as chaplain of St. Joseph's Hospital in Elmira, N.Y., according to hospital officials.
The Rev. Joseph Lang, 63, was suspended from Sacred Heart Church in Terrace, a small parish some 400 miles northwest of Vancouver, British Columbia.
Pastoral assistant Pauline Moldenhauer said yesterday that she was never told of sexual-abuse allegations in Lang's past.
But she declined to comment further.
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