Pilarczyk Suspends 3 More Priests
Tribunal's Findings Used; Member Has Misgivings
By Dan Horn
March 10, 2005
The Archdiocese of Cincinnati suspended three priests Wednesday because of accusations they abused children in the 1970s and 1980s.
Church officials said the decision to suspend the priests - Michael Paraniuk, Stanley Doerger and David Vincent - came after an independent tribunal awarded compensation payments earlier this week to their accusers.
Paraniuk is chaplain at Children's Hospital Medical Center, Doerger worked for years at St. Rita's School for the Deaf and Vincent is a former teacher at Elder High School.
All three have denied the allegations, and one complained Wednesday that it was unfair to base his suspension on the tribunal's decision to pay his accuser.
"I'm not saying this person wasn't abused, but it wasn't by me," Paraniuk said. "I never met the accuser, I don't know the accuser and I never ministered to the accuser. I am innocent."
A member of the tribunal, which evaluated abuse claims and decided whether compensation was necessary, said he was surprised the archdiocese used the tribunal's work to justify the suspensions.
Robert Stachler said he and the two other tribunal members did not use a legal standard of proof in deciding the claims and only reviewed evidence that had been previously available to church officials.
"That's a mistake they're making," Stachler said. "Our determination did not decide whether some priest was guilty or not. ... I'm a little surprised, to say the least."
But church officials, who have been criticized for not acting quickly enough, said the tribunal's findings gave credibility to the allegations.
Church spokesman Dan Andriacco said two of the priests, Paraniuk and Doerger, had been accused previously but neither allegation was found to have the "semblance of truth" that U.S. bishops require to suspend priests.
Andriacco said the legal expertise of the tribunal - Stachler is a veteran lawyer and the other members are former judges - convinced Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk to change his position.
"A third party has investigated and found at least enough plausibility to warrant payments," Andriacco said. "In the archbishop's eyes, these accusations attained a semblance of truth."
A different test
Stachler, though, said the tribunal gave the accusers the benefit of the doubt in every case, rejecting only those claims in which the priests were not employed by the archdiocese or when basic facts, such as time and place, were found to be wrong.
"The test we applied is different from what they would use to make a final adjudication in court," Stachler said.
A victims' advocacy group said the priests should have been suspended months ago, when the archdiocese learned of the complaints.
"Our question is: Why did they wait this long to remove these three perpetrators?" said Christy Miller, a leader of Cincinnati's chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "How many children were at risk?"
$3.2 million distributed
The archdiocese's announcement Wednesday came a day after the tribunal sent checks totaling $3.2 million to 120 of the 134 people who filed claims for compensation.
The payments exhausted a fund the archdiocese established in 2003 as part of a settlement that ended the Hamilton County prosecutor's investigation into clergy abuse.
Andriacco said the accusations against the three suspended priests have been forwarded to Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters. No criminal charges have been filed.
Neither Deters nor tribunal officials would discuss the allegations, but the archdiocese released some details:
Paraniuk's accuser claims he was abused at his home in 1983 when he was 14 years old. Church officials say the man reported the incident in 1995 and again last year, but each time provided different details. Paraniuk denied the allegation and a church investigation declared the claim "unsubstantiated."
Vincent is accused of abusing a student during a Latin class at Elder around 1970. Church officials say they learned of the claim from the tribunal. They say another man accused Vincent last year of abusing him in the 1980s but has not cooperated with authorities.
Doerger is accused of abusing a girl at St. Rita's in the 1970s. Church officials say they investigated and found that people close to the accuser disputed her claim. A group of former St. Rita's students has complained that Doerger abused many female students while at the school, but church officials say no individual complaints have been made.
"I don't know what the basis for them are," Doerger said Wednesday of the allegations. "I have expressed my innocence. What more can I say?"
Vincent could not be reached Wednesday, but Paraniuk was eager to defend himself.
Paraniuk is no stranger to controversy. He was accused of secretly marrying gay couples in 1993 and temporarily lost his job as chaplain of the Cincinnati Fire Department in 2003 after taking sides in a labor dispute.
A spokesman for Children's Hospital said no one has complained about Paraniuk's conduct during his 21 years as chaplain there.
"I work with children all the time," Paraniuk said. "I am not a pedophile."
But the lawyer for Paraniuk's accuser said the priest is a threat. "I am very pleased he was removed from ministry," said the lawyer, Konrad Kircher. "I have some grave concerns about him."
14 suspended since '01
The three priests are barred from saying Mass or performing other priestly duties. They are among 14 archdiocese priests suspended since 2001 for misconduct.
The newest three cases now will go to the archdiocese's review board, which will either recommend to lift the suspensions or to pursue harsher penalties, such as permanent removal from the priesthood.
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