Bishop Suspends Priest Convicted of Abusing Girl 15 Years Ago

Associated Press State & Local Wire
May 6, 2002

TOLEDO, Ohio — A Roman Catholic priest convicted of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl in 1988 has been suspended even though most parishioners at his church knew about his past.

Bishop James Hoffman of the Toledo Catholic Diocese said there were no new allegations against Rev. Robert J. Fisher.

Hoffman said on Sunday he decided to place Fisher on administrative leave of absence because of "the media climate presently in the United States."

Fisher pleaded guilty in 1988 to charges of sexual imposition and contributing to the sexual abuse of a minor. He spent 30 days in jail and four years in therapy and counseling.

Fisher could not be reached for comment. Messages left on Monday at St. Michael Catholic Church were not returned.

Hoffman said he would decide whether to reinstate the 48-year-old priest after the June meeting in Dallas of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"It is my hope that following deliberations that I will have some clear direction in guiding Father Fisher's priestly ministry," Hoffman said.

Fisher was associate pastor of St. Rose Church in Perrysburg, a Toledo suburb, when he was accused of molesting the girl.

Doctors declared him fit for ministry in 1992. He was appointed pastor of St. Michael's later that year.

Several parishioners said church members had forgiven Fisher long ago.

Eileen Szabo, a member of St. Michael's for 61 years, was upset with the suspension.

"I told the bishop that Father Fisher has paid his dues to society. He came here, he told the people, we were very supportive of him. We love him," Szabo said.

Hoffman said he has not suspended any other priests and has no plans to do so. There are 200 priests in the diocese, which covers 19 counties in northwest Ohio.

More than 180 priests have been suspended nationwide since January when the archdiocese in Boston began discussing settling lawsuits with 86 alleged victims of abuse.


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