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  Accused Priest a Former Educator
Assignments Included Several Valley Parishes

By James Cummings
Dayton Daily News [Ohio]
August 11, 2003

Tipp City — One of two Catholic priests relieved of his duties Saturday because of a sexual misconduct allegation is a former educator and Springfield Catholic Central High School principal, a church statement said Sunday.

Church officials also acknowledged they had known about inappropriate sexual touching by another priest, an 88-year-old nursing home chaplain who admitted to the allegations in the 1950s, but that he had been in treatment and forbidden from attending children's programs or visiting private homes.

Dan Andriacco, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, said allegations against the Rev. Richard Unwin came forward in a letter to the church last week, and the archdiocese chancellor interviewed the man who said the situation involving Unwin happened more than 15 years ago.

Unwin, 50, was the pastor of St. John the Baptist, is a former educator who was principal of Catholic Central High School in 1987 and chaired the religion department of Lehman High School in Sidney in 1991.

Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk announced that Unwin would be placed on indefinite administrative leave of absence, and that he would not be permitted to celebrate any of the sacraments, perform any priestly ministry or present himself as a priest.

The Rev. Francis Massarella, who had limited duties at St. John the Baptist, also was placed on indefinite leave on Saturday. Massarella is semi-retired, and his only duty at the church had been performing Sunday Masses. He was placed on leave because he previously had admitted to inappropriate behavior with minor girls nearly 50 years ago.

The chancellor confronted Unwin with the allegations late last week, and he admitted that they were true, Andriacco said.

"At that time, the archbishop decided that immediate action had to be taken, so he placed the priest on indefinite leave, which is as much as the archbishop is authorized to do," Andriacco said.

Andriacco said details of the accusations against Unwin, such as the specific time or place, will not be released to help protect the identity of his accuser. But he said the information church officials gathered has been turned over to the appropriate civil law enforcement officials.

According to a statement, Unwin was ordained as a priest in 1979. He taught at Hamilton's Badin High School from 1979 to 1987. During those years, he also served at St. Matthias Church in Cincinnati from 1979 to 1981, St. Joseph in Hamilton from 1981 to 1984, and St. Mary in Oxford from 1984 to 1987.

He was principal of Catholic Central High School in Springfield in 1987, at which time he lived at St. Raphael in Springfield. He became chair of the religion department at Lehman High School in Sidney in 1991 and lived at Sacred Heart in McCartyville until 1993.

In 1993, he became pastor at St. Boniface in Piqua. He became pastor of St. John the Baptist in Tipp City in 2002.

Until being relieved of duty last week, Massarella had been one of four priests in the Cincinnati archdiocese who were still working though they had been found to have molested children in the past.

Andriacco said that a review of personnel records in 1993 showed that Massarella had inappropriately touched touched young girls in 1952, 1953 and 1954. He admitted to the activity at the time of the complaints.

Andriacco said that under the child protection policies in place in 1993, Massarella was allowed to continue in the priesthood as long as he adhered to a set of 11 conditions. Among those conditions were that he receive ongoing therapy, agree never to be alone with a child, be mentored by another priest and that at least one other priest in any parish where he was active would know his history.

Under a revised Decree of Child Protection that went into effect last year, any priest with a history of sexually abusing a child must be permanently removed from the priesthood. But Andriacco said the archdiocese's canon lawyers have advised Pilarczyk that he doesn't have the authority to permanently remove priests, only to place them on indefinite leave.

Andriacco said a priest can voluntarily give up his priesthood, but if he doesn't that priest can only be removed in a church court. He said the Cincinnati Archdiocese doesn't plan to start church court proceedings against the three other active priests who have been found to have molested children until civil authorities have finished cases against them.

He said Pilarczyk decided to announce Massarella's removal on Saturday because the archbishop knew he was going to have to announce Unwin's removal. Also, since the inappropriate behavior Massarella is accused of happened 50 years ago, there's little chance civil authorities are still working on a case against him, Andriacco said.

The archdiocese will not release the names of the three other active priests with substantiated child abuse complaints against them, Andriacco said. The restrictions and monitoring that applied to Massarella applies to the other three priests, he said, and they are not considered a danger to re-offend.

Massarella was ordained in 1941. He served at St. Mary's in Piqua in 1952, Guardian Angels in Cincinnati in 1952, St. Patrick in Cincinnati in 1953, St. Mary in Springfield in 1954, St. Edward in Cincinnati in 1955, and at Sienna House, now known as Mercy Sienna Retirement Community, where he has been chaplain since 1956.

Andriacco said Massarella performed Masses at St. John the Baptist, but he was never in situations where he was alone with children.

"There's a natural concern among church members, but there is no time when a priest preparing for Mass these days is alone with altar boys or altar girls or any other child," Andriacco said.

Andriacco said that the church is urging anyone who has ever been sexually abused by an agent of the archdiocese to report it. He said reports should be directed to the Chancellor of the Archdiocese, Father Joseph Binzer (513) 421-3131 as well as to civil authorities.

Contact: jcummings@DaytonDailyNews.com

 
 

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