Attorney Wants Trial Date for Church Suit

By Paul A. Long
Kentucky Post [Kentucky]
May 5, 2003

A Kenton County judge will be asked today to set a trial date for a lawsuit that alleges a long pattern of sexual harassment and abuse at the Diocese of Covington offices.

The lawsuit, filed last summer, is different from most claims against the church. Although it does allege instances of child-sexual abuse, it also alleges the diocese maintained a "sexually charged workplace."

It was filed by John DiMuzio and his son, Mark, who combined to work for the diocese for 68 years in the maintenance department.

"I don't think any of the other people who have brought actions were employees," said Barbara Bonar, a Covington attorney who filed the lawsuit and looked around the country for one that was similar.

At a hearing today before Kenton Circuit Judge Steve Jaeger, Bonar will ask that the trial -- expected to take at least a week -- to begin as soon as possible. Jaeger also will consider motions by the diocese to dismiss all or parts of the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims that complaints made about the incidents over the years fell on deaf ears. In early 2002, the lawsuit says, the DiMuzios complained directly to the diocese's chancellor, the Rev. Gerald Reinersman.

They were told to keep quiet, and eventually to leave their jobs, they say in the lawsuit.

The diocese has denied the claims.

The Covington Diocese faced a number of sexual-misconduct lawsuits in the early 1990s, most over the conduct of Father Earl Bierman. Just about all of the lawsuits were settled out of court or dismissed.

One case did go to trial, however, and the jury ordered the diocese to pay $737,500 -- $700,000 of that in punitive damages -- to a man Bierman allegedly molested in the 1970s. Bierman himself was not a part of that lawsuit, but he is servicing a 20-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to 29 counts of molestation.

But the DiMuzios' lawsuit was the first in a more recent series that allege sexual abuse and misconduct by a number of priests. One recent lawsuit, filed in Boone County, is seeking class-action status to represent any who may have been molested by a priests or diocesan employee.

The church objects to class-action status, saying all the cases are different and should be treated differently.

The abuse cited in the DiMuzios' lawsuit includes claims that Mark DiMuzio was sexually assaulted by Bishop J. Kendrick Williams, who resigned last year as head of the Diocese of Lexington after similar allegations were raised about his days as a priest in Louisville. Williams has denied ever abusing anyone.

The lawsuit also claims that Father Paul Ciangetti, who died in 1995, molested DiMuzio when he was an altar boy at Mary Queen of Heaven Church in Erlanger in 1971-72.


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