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  St. Henry Priest Placed on Leave, Computer Seized
Archbishop Prepares Letter, Sheriff Mum

By Tom Beyerlein
Dayton Daily News [Ohio]
May 25, 2002

Miami Twp., Montgomery County — The Rev. Thomas Kuhn, the priest at St. Henry Church, was placed on administrative leave by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati on Wednesday, the same day Montgomery County sheriff's detectives removed several computers from the St. Henry parish center, officials said Friday.

Sheriff David Vore declined to comment on specifics of the investigation, but he said detectives will be studying the computers and associated equipment for "correspondence between people and any written documentation" and "inappropriate or illegal material that may be on (the computers)." He said detectives will investigate who accessed material on the computers.

Vore wouldn't comment on whether the St. Henry investigation is part of the widening scandal of child sexual abuse by priests. Asked whether detectives had information that any children may have been molested, Vore said, "I can't comment on that."

St. Henry's employees voluntarily surrendered the computer equipment, Vore said, although deputies were prepared to secure a search warrant for them. He would not say what prompted deputies to take the computers.

There have been no arrests and deputies have not yet determined whether to meet with prosecutors to seek charges, Vore said. "We'll just see what develops (as the investigation proceeds) next week," he said. "There's a lot of stuff to go through. This is very complex."

Jim Knight, spokesman for county Prosecutor Mathias Heck Jr., said the St. Henry investigation was developed by the sheriff's office and was not launched as a result of information turned over to prosecutors this month by the 19-county archdiocese, pursuant to a grand jury subpoena. Heck subpoenaed archdiocese records related to accusations of sexual abuse of children by archdiocese employees, including priests, from 1975 to the present.

Tricia Hempel, spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said she didn't know why Kuhn, 61, was placed on leave. But she said Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk has written a letter to St. Henry parishioners concerning Kuhn which is to be read at Mass this weekend at the church at 6666 Springboro Pike.

It will be the second time in as many months that Pilarczyk will explain to a local congregation why its priest has been suspended. In April, the archdiocese placed Queen of Martyrs pastor the Rev. Thomas Hopp, also 61, on administrative leave after he admitted he sexually abused a boy while serving in Fort Loramie in 1980.

The current investigation is the second time this year that the St. Henry congregation has been hit by scandal. In March, Steven Mabarak, the music teacher at Bishop Leibold Consolidated School, which is associated with St. Henry, was sentenced to two weeks in jail and five years' probation for having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old private piano student he tutored.

"This parish has been through a lot of difficult times recently," said Beverly Steinbicker, a parishioner and immediate past president of the parish council. "It's sad."

Roger Makley, identified by Hempel as Kuhn's attorney, did not return a phone call seeking comment. Kuhn could not be reached for comment, nor could St. Henry associate pastor the Rev. Jeffrey Fulmer, who is temporarily serving as Kuhn's replacement.

Kuhn is well known among area Catholics, having spent 12 years as pastor of Incarnation Church in Centerville until his transfer to the adjoining St. Henry parish last July. The archdiocese approved a job switch between Kuhn and former St. Henry priest the Rev. Lawrence Mierenfeld. In a Dayton Daily News article last June, the men said they both had served two six-year terms at their respective churches and were required under archdiocese rules to be transferred. Vore declined to comment on whether he is investigating any accusations of wrongdoing that may have occurred at Incarnation. Asked if deputies have taken any evidence from Incarnation, he said, "not at this time."

Kuhn is the second priest with Incarnation ties to hit the news in recent times. In May 2000, Kuhn's associate pastor at Incarnation, the Rev. Charles Mentrup, was stabbed in his Middletown home. Mentrup, who is principal at Fenwick High School, named Marcus A. Finefrock of Columbus as his attacker, but refused to provide other details, saying he was bound by the secrecy of the confessional. Charges against Finefrock were dropped.

Kuhn has had his own problems recently. Church officials announced this year that he would be taking a leave from his St. Henry duties to receive rehabilitative treatment for an alcohol problem. He returned to his duties this month after about three months in treatment, a parishioner said.

A native Daytonian, Kuhn grew up in Dayton View and attended Chaminade High School. He was ordained in 1967 at Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Cincinnati.

Kuhn was assigned to Elder High School in Cincinnati from 1967 to 1988, serving as a teacher for five years, vice principal for nine years and principal for seven years.

He left Elder in July 1988, and took a one-year sabbatical before coming to Incarnation as pastor on June 22, 1989, Kuhn told the Daily News last year.

 
 

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