Suit Accuses Former Chaplain of Sexual Abuse

By James F. McCarty
Plain Dealer [Cleveland, Ohio]
July 12, 2002

Three former students at Parmadale Family Services filed a lawsuit yesterday accusing a former chaplain at the home of sexually abusing them.

The three men accused the Rev. Joseph Seminatore of fondling and molesting them during the mid-1980s when they were youths living at the home, a treatment center for about 100 emotionally disturbed children run by Cleveland Catholic Charities.

The men filed the lawsuit anonymously in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. The suit names the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland and Parmadale - but not Seminatore - as defendants. No dollar amount was included for damages being sought. Lawyer Howard Schulman said he filed the lawsuit as a class action because he suspects Seminatore's victims are too numerous for all of them to file lawsuits individually.

"We hope that those other victims will contact us and tell us what happened to them, in confidence," Schulman said.

Seminatore, 60, a chaplain at Parmadale for 20 years, has been on administrative leave since May. He was suspended by Bishop Anthony Pilla after one of the accusers, now 31 and living in Cleveland, came forward with sexual-abuse allegations against Seminatore.

Last month, the county Department of Children & Family Services concluded that the allegations could not be substantiated.

Seminatore will remain suspended pending the outcome of a grand jury investigation and the recommendations of an independent commission that is studying the clergy sex-abuse problem in the diocese, said diocesan spokesman Bob Tayek.

Kenneth Seminatore, the priest's attorney brother, said the priest is the victim of false allegations brought by a troubled man with a criminal past and a vendetta against Joseph Seminatore.

"If my brother was a civilian employee at Parmadale, he would have been back to work the next day," Kenneth Seminatore said.

The priest's lead accuser was an altar boy, an athlete and a fairly good student until he encountered Father Seminatore, said Schulman.

"Since then, he has experienced a lot of personal problems," Schulman said. "But what else would anyone expect?" The man has spent about two years in prison for aggravated assault, theft, receiving stolen property and domestic abuse.

Seminatore is one of 15 priests in the Cleveland diocese under suspension for allegedly sexually abusing children.


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