Priest Suspended on Abuse Allegation
Former Cleric at Kettering Parish
By Tom Beyerlein
Dayton Daily News (Ohio)
January 14, 2004
Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk on Tuesday announced he has suspended a former associate pastor of St. Albert the Great Catholic Church in Kettering after a man reported that the priest sexually abused him as a teenager in the Cincinnati area in the early 1980s.
Pilarczyk placed the Rev. Ronald Cooper on paid leave after Cooper, confronted with the allegation late Monday, acknowledged he had touched the minor but denied he had sexual intent. Cooper isn't permitted to celebrate the sacraments or otherwise present himself as a priest during the investigation.
Dan Andriacco, spokesman for the Cincinnati archdiocese, said the case will go to the archdiocese Child-Protection Review Board, which will recommend to Pilarczyk whether the accusation is substantiated. Cooper, 47, ultimately could be permanently removed from ministry under the U.S. Catholic bishops' zero-tolerance policy.
Cooper left parish housing when he was suspended. He could not be reached for comment.
Andriacco said the archdiocese had never before received a complaint about Cooper, who served at St. Albert the Great from 1989-90, and the allegation
came as a surprise to church leaders. "We just keep hoping that it's over i
n the sense that there aren't any more out there," Andriacco said. "But we'd rather know (about allegations) than not know because we want to do something about it."
The archdiocese immediately reported the allegation to the Hamilton County prosecutor's office, he said. That was one of the provisions of a plea agreement in November under which Pilarczyk entered a no contest plea to criminal charges of failure to report a crime on behalf of the archdiocese as an entity. Cooper's accuser told archdiocese officials that Cooper inappropriately touched him several times around 1983-84 at St. Aloysius Gonzaga parish in Bridgetown, where Cooper was then associate pastor, and at the Friar's Club in Cincinnati. Cooper was ordained in 1983.
Cooper was pastor of St. Michael parish in New Vienna, Clinton County, from 1993 until last year, when he was named the first pastor of a new parish, St. Angela Merici, in Brown County, Andriacco said. Coincidentally, another former associate pastor of St. Albert the Great, the Rev. Lawrence Strittmatter, also was accused of molesting minors at the Friar's Club while he was working in Cincinnati.
Pilarczyk is asking the Vatican to permanently defrock Strittmatter and nine other area priests who have had substantiated child abuse allegations against them. Andriacco said none of those cases - including several who are voluntarily applying for removal from the priesthood - have been processed by the Vatican. "Unfortunately it is, as we suspected, a long process," Andriacco said.
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