Lawsuit in Chicago Accuses Ex-Louisville Priest of Abuse
Plaintiff contends Ormechea molested him as a boy in 1983

By Peter Smith
Louisville Courier-Journal
February 27, 2003

A former Louisville priest has been accused of sexual abuse in a lawsuit filed in Chicago.

The lawsuit accuses the Rev. John Baptist Ormechea of molesting the plaintiff, who was a boy in Chicago in 1983. Ormechea was removed as pastor of St. Agnes Church in Louisville in December after other abuse allegations.

Ormechea and his Roman Catholic religious order, the Congregation of the Passion, are named as defendants in the Chicago lawsuit, filed by a "John Doe" and his parents Tuesday in Circuit Court of Cook County. Neither the Chicago archdiocese nor the Louisville archdiocese is a defendant in the suit.

"John Doe is very profoundly harmed and disabled right now emotionally," said his lawyer, Jeff Anderson of Minnesota, explaining why he was keeping his name out of the court filing. Anderson said he has informed the Passionists of the man's identity in a separate letter.

Louisville Archbishop Thomas Kelly removed Ormechea as pastor of St. Agnes after Chicago prosecutors reported that four people had alleged sexual abuse by Ormechea between 1978 and 1981. Chicago prosecutors did not bring criminal charges, noting that the statute of limitations had expired.

"John Doe" was not among those four accusers, Anderson said.

The Doe family alleges in the lawsuit that Ormechea molested John Doe as a boy in 1983 on the property of Immaculate Conception Church in Chicago, where Ormechea was then serving.

As a teen-ager in 1993, the boy told his parents that he was abused. They met with the provincial, or head, of the Passionists' Holy Cross Province, based in Chicago, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit identified the provincial as the Rev. Michael Higgins. Higgins, in a telephone interview yesterday, said he did not become provincial until 1999 and was not the one who met with the family in 1993. He said he could not comment further on the lawsuit, which he had not yet seen.

The lawsuit claims that in their 1993 meeting, the provincial acknowledged to Doe's parents that Ormechea had been removed from Immaculate Conception in 1988 after another incident of "inappropriate . . . conduct with a minor."

The lawsuit alleges the Passionists had a "psychologist or specialist" review John Doe's written statement about the alleged abuse. The lawsuit claims that the Passionists concluded that Doe had been sexually abused by a priest - but not by Ormechea.

Anderson said the family dropped the matter in 1993 but felt emboldened to come forward again this year in the wake of other accusations against Ormechea. This lawsuit is the first one known to accuse Ormechea.

After Ormechea's removal from St. Agnes in December, Higgins confirmed that someone had brought an allegation against the priest in 1993 but that the Passionists considered it to be unfounded and that a mentalhealth assessment of Ormechea found that he was not a risk to children.

Ormechea did not reply to a phone message yesterday left at the Passionists' Chicago headquarters seeking comment.

Cecelia Price, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Louisville, said that other than the 1993 investigation, the archdiocese knew of no allegations against Ormechea until the Chicago investigation of late last year.

No one has alleged any abuse by Ormechea during his years of ministry at St. Agnes in Louisville, a Passionist-run parish where Ormechea served as associate pastor from 1969 to 1974 and as pastor from 1992 to 2002, Price said.

Price declined to comment on the lawsuit, noting that the archdiocese is not a defendant. The Louisville archdiocese currently faces 213 lawsuits in Jefferson Circuit Court, alleging sexual abuse by other priests and church workers.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.