Alleged Abuse by Catholic Priest Haunting, 50 Years Later

The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register [Wheeling WV]

December 17, 2022

By Linda Harris

A Steubenville Catholic Central High School graduate who says he was molested by a priest 54 years ago wants the Diocese of Steubenville to admit “it wasn’t my fault.”

The man, who asked not to be identified, alleges the Rev. Kenneth Bonadies grabbed his “private area” after class and asked some inappropriate questions in the confessional 54 years ago.

He said he’s looking for “validation from the diocese that it wasn’t my fault, I had nothing to do with that, that the diocese wasn’t doing its job.”

“It really has bothered me,” he said recently. “It changed my life forever, a Catholic priest doing this to me. It made it hard to get along with other people, it made me not trust people — especially priests. Every time I would go to church I would think, ‘I wonder if he’s ever abused anyone?’”

On Thursday, the diocese confirmed that attorneys for the diocese and John Doe are “in discussion about the allegations.”

“The attorneys are exchanging views on the matter,” a spokesman said. “I can’t go into specifics.”

Mitchell Garabedian, the Boston attorney representing the alleged victim, said validation is important to victims of clergy sex abuse, “because it provides an acknowledgment that … it was not the victim’s fault” and suggests Bishop Jeffrey Monforton has been less than forthcoming.

“By stating as little as possible publicly about credibly accused clergy sexual abusers, Monforton is practicing the art of cover-up to the detriment of society,” he said.

Bonadies, who died in August 2021, also was accused of sexually abusing a teenager from about 1981-85 at a school in Connecticut where he taught. Garabedian, who also represented that man, said the Archdiocese of Hartford settled that claim in the low-six figures.

He also represents another Steubenville Central graduate who claims he was sexually abused by Bonadies in the early 1970s. That man declined to be interviewed.

Garabedian said Bonadies was ordained in the Diocese of Steubenville in 1966, but the following year was “not indexed.” From 1967 to 1976 Bonadies moved from parish to parish in the diocese until 1976, when he was listed as “absent on leave.” Then, in 1980 he joined the Archdiocese of Hartford.

He said the terms “not indexed” and “absent on leave” are a tip off that Bonadies was considered a problem priest. He also said where there are one or two cases, there are likely to be more.

“Based on my decades of experience representing victims of sex abuse, when a pedophile sex abuser abuses a child he abuses as many as he can possibly abuse,” he said.

John Doe alleges the day Bonadies touched him, he’d told the class they were going to go to confession. He said when it was his turn, “I told him my sins, He knew who I was, he recognized my voice.”

John Doe said Bonadies then asked him a sexually oriented question and said he wanted to see him after class. John Doe claims Bonadies opened what looked to him like a medical book and showed him pictures of the male and female anatomy.

“He asked, ‘Do you know how babies are made?’ and I said I wasn’t sure, so he explained it. I couldn’t believe he was telling me that, but next thing, he grabbed my private area. I pushed his hand away, just pushed it away … He said you can go now. He walked away and never said a word to me.”

John Doe said he never told anyone — not family, not friends, not anyone in authority — what had happened.

“It’s very hard when you get abused by a Catholic priest, especially when you’re Catholic,” he said. “I was shocked, and I never though anyone would believe what I had to say.”

He said the turning point came about a year ago when he saw a story about priest-turned activist Robert Hoatsen, co-founder and president of the nonprofit Road to Recovery charity, asking the diocese to release the names of all the priests who’d been abusing children in the diocese.” He said he saw Garabedian’s name in the article “so I called him, I said ‘I’m one of those people — it’s been bothering me for 53, 54 years. It changed my life forever. I’d never even told anybody, I never told my parents or my friends.”

“I almost lost my faith because of it, but with God’s help and prayers I overcame it,” he continued. “I stopped going to church for a while … it totally bothered me.”

John Doe insists the priest’s alleged sexual proclivities were an open secret in the school community.

Garabedian insists the allegations “need to be addressed by Bishhop Monforton and the Diocese of Steubenville.” The statute of limitations has expired.

“If the sex abuse was an open secret to students, then his supervisors should have known,” he said. “We’re demanding accountability, we’re demanding validation.”

“Right now, I’m just about ready to cry,” John Doe added. “I shouldn’t be ready to cry at my age. But for a priest to grab a 14- or 15-year-old … what’s going on? What was wrong with this guy, what would he have done if I didn’t push his hand away and jump off the desk? Would he have pulled my zipper down? I don’t know. We can only imagine. But I’m glad I did what I did.”

He said his only regret is that, “I wish I had come forward earlier. Why didn’t I? Embarrassment.”

“It’s been really hard on me, it really hurt my mind,” John Doe said. “It’s something I can’t forget — it still haunts me, 53-, 54-years later.”

Garabedian concedes there are “a lot of good priests out there.”

“But just like in any other profession, there’s some bad ones and the bad ones they need to get rid of, no matter what their profession is. That holds true for the Catholic church.”