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  Pickerington Parish
Priest to Fight Request He Resign
Congregation Told Appeals Process Likely to Be Lengthy

By Alice Thomas
Columbus Dispatch
February 3, 2003

A Pickerington priest accused of molesting a teen-age boy will appeal Columbus Bishop James A. Griffin's decision to force him out of the priesthood, his temporary replacement said last night.

Martin Weithman was removed as pastor of Seton Parish in July and retired Monsignor William Maroon has been serving as interim priest.

A couple hundred parishioners who gathered at the church last night were told the appeals process could be long -- leaving uncertain who will lead their church in the future.

"This could be a long, drawn-out process. There are more questions than answers," said the Rev. Leo Connolly, paster of neighboring St. Philip parish. He said details of the appeal are unclear.

"We don't know where the judicial process will take place -- whether it will be handled by local diocese tribunals or regionally with church lawyers."

Weithman was removed as Seton's pastor after allegations arose he abused Dennis Palmer in the late 1980s when Palmer was a student at the former Wehrle High School on the South Side.

Weithman has repeatedly denied the allegations. Palmer, a Wehrle graduate, lives in Cleveland.

Last week, Griffin said he wants Weithman and two other Columbus Diocese priests involved in sex-abuse cases to resign and begin the laicization process to return them to the lay state.

If they don't resign, Griffin said he will ask the Vatican to laicize them. If they are not laicized, the bishop has the authority to bar the priests from any public ministry.

Church members -- many of whom said they support Weithman -- said they want more information about his case. Some think the bishop should address the church.

"Does the bishop have a plan?" asked one member.

Maroon answered, "I'm sure the bishop has a plan, but right now we don't know what it is."

Palmer was paid $115,000 by the diocese last summer after he threatened to sue. A diocesan review board recommended that the priests be removed from the priesthood or barred from public ministry. Maroon said the situation has put the church in "uncharted waters."

Members wonder who their next priest will be and asked Maroon how long he will stay.

"I'm sure the bishop will take care of your pastoral needs, but I'm happy to stay until then," Maroon said.

Church officials also were asked if Weithman is being supported financially by the church.

Maroon said he is, and that Weithman is staying with siblings who live out of state.

While many members spoke highly of Weithman, some urged the congregation to not lose sight of the seriousness of the allegations.

"The church has a problem. The world has a problem. The bishop needs to own up to it," one man said.

athomas@dispatch.com

 
 

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