Cleveland Diocese Suspends 12th Priest
Parmadale Chaplain Accused of Abusing Boy
By James F. McCarty
Plain Dealer [Cleveland, Ohio]
May 4, 2002
The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland this week suspended its 12th active priest accused of sexually abusing a child.
Bishop Anthony Pilla placed the Rev. Joseph Seminatore on administrative leave Thursday pending the outcome of an investigation into the allegations, diocesan spokesman Bob Tayek confirmed yesterday.
Seminatore, 60, has served as a chaplain at the Parmadale Family Services home for the past 20 years.
Parmadale is a center operated by Cleveland Catholic Charities where about 100 children live and receive treatment for emotional problems resulting from neglect, physical and psychological abuse and drug abuse.
Seminatore was removed from his duties and evicted from his residence at Parmadale after a 31-year-old Cleveland man told diocesan officials that the priest had sexually abused him when he was a teenager in the mid-1980s at Parmadale. The man told a lawyer he has hired that he knew about other boys from Parmadale who were abused about the same time, but Tayek said no one else has come forward.
The priest was suspended after the alleged victim's lawyer, Stephen Bloom, met with diocesan lawyer Joseph Smith and Tom Mullen of Catholic Charities.
The priest's brother, lawyer Kenneth Seminatore, vowed yesterday to protect his brother and to pray for Pilla.
"My brother thanks God every day for the privilege of helping children in his ministry," the lawyer said. "This false charge surfaces now in an atmosphere akin to the Salem witch trials."
Kenneth Seminatore researched the accuser's past and found that he had convictions for attempted aggravated assault, theft, receiving stolen property and domestic abuse. State records show the man spent about two years in prison.
Kenneth Seminatore said the man recently recovered from bankruptcy but continues to have financial problems that would provide him a motive to seek a damage claim against the Cleveland diocese.
"The diocese, faced with a real crisis in confidence over legitimate claims [of child sexual abuse by clergy], can expect a wave of extortion attempts and disciplinary retaliation in connection with false claims," Kenneth Seminatore said.
Bloom declined to respond to Kenneth Seminatore's characterization of his client. Diocesan officials relayed the abuse allegations to the Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services, and investigators immediately went to Parmadale to interview children, said Jim McCafferty, the agency's director. None of the children said they had been victimized, he said.
The Rev. Seminatore is the second Parmadale employee to be accused of child sexual abuse in the past month. A counselor at the home, Michael Brown, 47, was arrested April 1 and charged with 57 counts of gross sexual imposition involving three teenage boys at Parmadale. Brown had quit his job in March 2001 after questions of inappropriate conduct were raised against him.
In addition to the 12 priests in the Cleveland diocese currently on suspension, 13 other retired and former priests were identified by the diocese as having been accused in the past of sexual abuse of minors. Another diocesan priest, the Rev. Donald Rooney, committed suicide last month after the diocese told him to meet with Pilla about allegations he abused a schoolgirl in 1980.
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