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  3 More Priests Put on Leave
Wayne, Ex-Summit, Cleveland Clerics Accused of Misconduct

By Phil Trexler
Akron Beacon Journal [Ohio]
July 5, 2002

The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland has removed three more priests from their churches amid allegations of misconduct with minors.

The diocese said in a statement released Thursday that the three priests were placed on administrative leave while "civil authorities" were made aware of the allegations.

The announcement brings to 15 the number of Cleveland Diocese priests placed on leave this year in response to allegations of misconduct with children.

The priests suspended Thursday are:

• The Rev. John J. Mueller, 69, pastor of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Wooster.

• The Rev. Daniel R. McBride, 75, who is retired and formerly was at St. Barnabas in Northfield Center Township.

• The Rev. James A. Viall, 70, pastor of St. Rose in Cleveland.

Each of the three has been a priest for at least 40 years.

Harry A. Hoitink, a parishioner at St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church in Wooster and an Ohio State University professor, said he was shocked by and skeptical of the allegations against Mueller.

"I know him as a rare individual. You can't ask for a better, more caring man," Hoitink said of Mueller. "I'd say he's an example of what you want in a priest. He doesn't strike me as that type of person, and therefore I'd be highly suspicious of these accusations."

The diocese's news release said each priest was "asked to remove himself from his church residence and is not permitted to exercise any public acts of ministry."

The church, in its announcement, said the leaves are not a determination of wrongdoing, "but only a precautionary measure taken because an allegation has been made."

It is unclear when the allegations arose, who made them, or when the acts alleged are said to have occurred.

The news release concluded with the statement: "In light of today's disclosure, we renew the pledge Bishop (Anthony) Pilla has made on any number of occasions: The Diocese of Cleveland remains fully and unequivocally committed to protecting all of our children."

Robert Tayek, a diocese spokesman, offered little additional information on the cases, saying the church was advised by county prosecutors to refrain from releasing details. Tayek said the latest allegations surfaced only recently and do not necessarily involve sexual misconduct.

He would not identify the number of children involved, and he said he is unaware of any previous misconduct allegations against the three priests.

Last week, church leaders said it is unclear what will happen to the 12 priests in the diocese who are already on leave because of allegations that they sexually abused children.

Officials said the fate of those priests won't be decided until the Vatican speaks on the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted last month in Dallas.

In addition, the commission created by Pilla in the spring to review the diocese's sexual-abuse policy needs to make its recommendations.

At the same time, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason is investigating sexual-abuse allegations against the priests.

Diocese officials said last week that it appears unlikely that any of the 12 priests will return to ministry, in accordance with the approved national charter. A priest permanently removed from the ministry would be offered professional help, a church spokesman said.

Only the Vatican has the power to defrock, or laicize, a priest. The charter includes provisions for the priest or his bishop to request laicization.

If laicization is not sought, the priest would be required to lead a life of prayer and penance in a remote setting such as a monastery and would be barred from celebrating Mass publicly, wearing clerical garb or presenting himself publicly as a priest.

 
 

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