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  Priest Is Cleared of Recent Complaint
Prosecutors Looking at Older Allegations

By David Briggs
Plain Dealer [Cleveland, Ohio]
September 11, 2002

There is no evidence to support recent parental complaints that the Rev. James Viall may have abused and neglected children at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, county children's services investigators have ruled.

In a letter to Viall released this week by his lawyer, the Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services said its investigation concluded that the complaint brought by two sets of parents was unsubstantiated.

County and diocesan officials would not discuss the details of the complaint. But a lawyer who worked with the parents said the complaints included concerns that Viall may have provided alcohol to minors and taken inappropriate photos of children.

Andrew Cox, a spokesman for children's services, said the agency investigated only the recent parental complaints and not any other allegations against Viall.

Viall remains on administrative leave while county prosecutors investigate allegations brought by two men who said they were sexually abused as altar boys in the 1950s and 1970s.

Before any decision could be made on his return, Viall's case would have to be considered by prosecutors and then a special review commission on sexual abuse allegations being established by the Cleveland Catholic Diocese, said diocesan spokesman Robert Tayek. And the guidelines for the review commission have not yet been set.

The children's services ruling "is a positive sign," said Nicholas Phillips, Viall's lawyer. But, he said, it's only one step in a difficult process that accused priests face in responding to allegations of misconduct.

"The endurance is difficult for anyone who is accused, especially when, as in this situation, the accusations remain vague," Phillips said yesterday.

One of the parents who raised the complaints investigated by children's services said they were considering asking for an administrative review of the ruling. The parents have declined to be identified.

Viall is one of 15 active priests suspended by the diocese after they were accused of misconduct.

Two men who have declined to be identified have said Viall abused them as altar boys. One man, 60, said he was sexually abused in the mid-1950s at St. Jerome. Another man, 43, said he was sexually abused in the early 1970s at SS. Philip and James.

One of them has also filed a civil suit against Viall, St. Rose and the diocese.

 
 

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