Warning about Ex-Priest Urged
Suspected Abuser Is a Threat to Kids in Haiti, and Church Should Act, Group Says
By Robert King
October 9, 2004
A former priest accused of abusing eight male teenagers in Indiana a decade ago poses an ongoing threat to children in Haiti, and the Catholic Church should do something to stop him, a national group that represents abuse victims said Friday.
The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said Indiana's Catholic bishops also should do more to find others victimized by Ron Voss, who resigned his ministry in 1993 and now lives in Haiti.
"We would like to see the bishops do what Jesus Christ told us to do -- go out and find the lost and wounded sheep," David Clohessy, SNAP's national director, said at a news conference in front of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis headquarters.
Voss was a priest in the Diocese of Lafayette, which was the subject of a report that appeared in The Indianapolis Star in 1997. It documented claims of abuse against 16 priests, including Voss, and that diocese's effort to keep the cases quiet.
Voss was not criminally charged.
Efforts to reach him in Haiti were unsuccessful.
Clohessy called on Indianapolis Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein to use Catholic publications and media to warn others about Voss, reach out to Voss' victims and help police and prosecutors tackle his case.
Susan Borcherts, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said Buechlein has no influence over the Diocese of Lafayette, which is headed by Bishop William L. Higi.
Monsignor Robert Sell, the vicar general in Lafayette, said Voss -- having been granted a request to return to being a lay member of the church -- was no longer a priest and was not under the authority of the Lafayette Diocese.
But Sell said it was his understanding that Voss continues to do volunteer work in Haiti through a program that encourages Catholic parishes in America to partner with parishes in Haiti for assistance and help with parish life.
The Star's 1997 report revealed that Voss, a native of Anderson, abused teens at a family camp in northern Delaware County.
After accusations arose against him in 1988, he received therapy and moved to Haiti.
Clohessy said Voss' move resembles a pattern exposed recently by the Dallas Morning News. That paper documented how accused priests frequently move or are transferred overseas -- often to Third World countries where law enforcement is lax and children in poverty are vulnerable.
"This report has re-kindled our long-standing worries about shrewd, abusive clergy who now live in other countries," Clohessy wrote in his letter to Archbishop Buechlein.
Sell said Voss was no longer a threat to children because he has gone through and continues to take part in therapy. Experts have determined Voss "was not a threat to minors and that he had an awareness of what his weakness and proclivities might be," Sell said.
The Lafayette Diocese contacted state Child Protection Services officials about each case involving Voss that it became aware of, but the state took no action, Sell said. Further, the diocese's weekly newspaper continues to publish notices urging victims of abuse by any priest to contact authorities, he said.
Clohessy, who will speak today about the abuse scandal at St. Thomas Aquinas Church at 46th and Illinois streets, said the bishops should do more than wait for the phone to ring.
"All too often we see the bishops doing the bare minimum," he said.
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