2 Priests Cleared of Charges
Archdiocese Won't Restrict Contact with Children
By Dan Horn
October 13, 2005
The Archdiocese of Cincinnati cleared two suspended priests of sexual abuse allegations Wednesday and will allow them to return to work in parishes within a few weeks.
Church officials said they spent about six months investigating the abuse claims and could not find enough evidence to support the accusations against the Rev. Michael Paraniuk and the Rev. David Vincent.
Both priests will be assigned to parishes in the 19-county archdiocese and will not have restrictions on their contact with children.
The decision to reinstate the priests is a first for the archdiocese. Although 14 Greater Cincinnati priests have been disciplined for misconduct since 2001, no one accused of child abuse had been allowed to go back to work.
"We simply did not substantiate the allegations," said archdiocese spokesman Dan Andriacco. "When allegations cannot be substantiated, every effort should be made to restore the priest's good name."
A victims' advocacy group immediately denounced the reinstatements and said the archdiocese should have turned over its internal investigation to outsiders.
"I don't believe self-reporting works," said Christy Miller, leader of Cincinnati's chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "They should have hired an unbiased third party to investigate the allegations."
Paraniuk, a former chaplain at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, and Vincent, a former teacher at Elder High School, were suspended in March after an independent tribunal awarded payments to their accusers.
Paraniuk's accuser said he was abused at his home in 1983 when he was 14 years old, while Vincent was accused of abusing a student at Elder around 1970.
Both priests denied the allegations.
Andriacco said the tribunal's decision to pay the accusers - while not a finding of guilt - was enough to suspend the priests pending the outcome of an internal investigation.
Church officials, with occasional help from outside investigators, contacted dozens of people about the claims and interviewed the accusers and the priests, Andriacco said.
They also turned the complaints over to prosecutors, who determined the allegations were so old they would be impossible to pursue under Ohio's statute of limitations.
Vincent could not be reached for comment, but Paraniuk said he welcomed the archdiocese's decision.
"I did nothing wrong," said Paraniuk, who worked as an appliance salesman during his suspension. "I'm thrilled that not only have I been vindicated, but I have a chance to serve the people."
The attorney for Paraniuk's accuser said his client told the truth and will be shocked to learn the priest is back at work. "I think he's an accident waiting to happen," the lawyer, Konrad Kircher, said of Paraniuk.
Robert Stachler, a member of the tribunal that paid the accusers, said he supports the priests' reinstatement. He said the tribunal did not use a legal standard of proof to award payments and gave the benefit of the doubt to accusers.
"You can't judge guilt based on what we did," Stachler said.
A third priest who was suspended based on the tribunal's actions died last month. Andriacco said the investigation into that priest, Stanley Doerger, will not be completed.
Doerger, accused of abusing a girl at St. Rita's School for the Deaf in the 1970s, adamantly denied the allegation in March. "I have expressed my innocence," he said at the time. "What more can I say?"
His brother, Bob Doerger, said he was disappointed the archdiocese would not complete the investigation and clear his brother's name. "The situation they put these three guys under is so drastically unfair," he said. "They were guilty until proven innocent."
The archdiocese also announced Wednesday the Vatican had permanently removed two other accused priests - Francis Massarella and Thomas Hopp - from ministry.
They can no longer serve as priests in any capacity.
Another priest, Keith Albrecht, has been dismissed from the priesthood, or defrocked, because of allegations he molested a boy in the 1970s. The archdiocese suspended him in 1993.
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.