Columbus diocese’s list of clergy accused of sex abuse grows to 53 with Newark priest

Columbus Dispatch [Columbus OH]

June 30, 2022

By Danae King

The list of priests credibly accused of child sexual abuse who have served in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus now totals 53, with one additional priest awaiting a judgment.

In May, the diocese added a Newark priest to the list of those who had been credibly accused after he was put on leave in January.

The Rev. Dean A. Mathewson, 77, remains on leave after he was accused of sexually abusing a minor while serving at St. Francis de Sales Parish in Newark in the early 1990s.

The list, originally with 34 clergy named, came out in March 2019 on the heels of the Pennsylvania grand jury report that revealed more than 1,000 victims of alleged abuse by more than 300 priests over 70 years. The report’s release spurred public pressure for dioceses across the country to release such lists telling people which priests were believed to have been abusive to children in their areas.

The list has been added to at least six times, now with a total of 53 names and one priest in the footnotes, as his case is undergoing litigation and has not yet been deemed credible or not. 

The diocese said it got the report of Mathewson’s abuse on Jan. 19 and that the report had been given to Newark police.

In January, the Newark police said they were investigating the case and that the survivor was between 12 to 14 years of age at the time of the alleged abuse. Police said the diocese has been cooperative.

The detective involved with the case did not immediately return request for comment on Thursday. 

Mathewson was notified of the allegations against him in January and placed on leave as the diocese investigated whether the allegation was credible or not. Priests who are on leave, as Mathewson is, cannot publicly minister as priests or identify themselves as such.

Though the Diocesan Board of Review for the Protection of Children — a group that determines the credibility of accusations that was formed in 2003 — recommended Mathewson be added to the list of those credibly accused and the then-diocesan administrator, Monsignor Stephan J. Moloney accepted, the diocese said the determination of credibility is not considered proof that a priest is guilty of abuse.

The diocese said it is still working to notify people of the accusation against Mathewson and offer more information to parishioners.

Mathewson had a varied list of assignments in Greater Columbus since he began serving in 1973.

When he was ordained in 1973, Mathewson first taught at St. Francis de Sales High School on Columbus’ Northeast Side and was an assistant priest at St. Matthias Church on Columbus’ Northeast Side from 1973 to 1977. Then, Mathewson worked at Bishop Flaget High School in Chillicothe and St. Mary Church in Chillicothe from 1977 to 1981. For 10 years, from 1981 to 1991, he served at St. Joseph Parish in LaRue and taught part-time at Marion Catholic High School.

Then, from 1991 to 2003, he was at St. Francis de Sales Parish in Newark.

In 2003, Mathewson quit as pastor at St. Francis De Sales, citing that a controversy over his leadership of the church had “gone on long enough,” according to a May 30, 2003 Columbus Dispatch article.

He had pastored the church since 1995 and served as associate pastor before that,but parishioners had complained about him, according to the article, which also said the then-bishop of Columbus, James A. Griffin, had demanded Mathewson step down at least twice after such complaints were taken to the diocese. At the time, the diocese wouldn’t reveal the nature of the complaints.

After leaving St. Francis de Sales, he served from 2003 to 2006 as an associate pastor at St. Brendan the Navigator Church in Hilliard, and from 2006 to January he was the diocesan coordinator for priest hospital chaplains, with part-time work as the Catholic chaplain at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital