Text of the Archbishop's Statement

Cincinnati Enquirer [Cincinnati OH]
Downloaded August 11, 2003

The Rev. Daniel E. Pilarczyk, archbishop of Cincinnati, made the following statement at weekend Masses at St. John the Baptist parish in Tipp City, Ohio:

"I am sorry to have to inform you that your pastor, Fr. Rick Unwin has been accused of abusing a young man more than fifteen years ago. We became aware of these allegations only in the last few weeks. The officials of the Archdiocese have studied the accusations and have confronted Fr. Unwin with them. Fr. Unwin has acknowledged the truth of what has been alleged.

"Therefore, in accord with our archdiocesan Decree on Child Protection, Fr. Unwin has been placed on indefinite administrative leave of absence. He is not permitted to celebrate any of the sacraments, or perform any priestly ministry, or present himself as a priest.

"I am deeply saddened to have to bring this news to you. I know you will be shocked and hurt as I was when I heard these allegations.

"A new pastor will be assigned to the parish in due time. In the interim, Fr. Eugene Vonderhaar has agreed to act as administrator of the parish.

"Sadly, there is still more. Many, many years ago Fr. Francis Massarella engaged in inappropriate conduct with minor girls. I stress that this was a long time ago, nearly fifty years ago. Fr. Massarella was allowed to be in limited active ministry because it was clear that he no longer posed a threat to anybody. However, the bishops of our country have now agreed that no priest who has abused children would be allowed to remain in ministry. Here in our diocese we have been slow in implementing that decision because of secular court proceedings. Now, upon the advice of legal counsel, I have decided that I must remove Fr. Massarella from public priestly ministry. Consequently he will no longer be coming to St. John parish to help out on Sundays.

"I cannot tell you how saddened I am to have to bring you these two items of painful news at the same time. I know that the Lord is with us in this time of trial. I urge that all of us attune our hearts to the Lord and be attentive to His help. Let us pray for one another, for the victims of abuse, for Fr. Unwin, for Fr. Massarella, and for the Church."

Background Information

Norms established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and approved by the Vatican, require that any cleric known to have offended against children be permanently removed from ordained ministry. If the cleric does not himself ask the Vatican to return him to the lay state, the diocese can begin a canonical (church law) process that ultimately would involve a church trial.

Richard Unwin, 50, was ordained to the priesthood in 1979. He taught at Badin High School from 1979 to 1987, while also serving at St. Matthias Church in Cincinnati (1979-1981), St. Joseph in Hamilton (1981-1984) and St. Mary in Oxford (1984-1987). He was named principal of Catholic Central High School in Springfield in 1987, living at St. Raphael in Springfield. He became chair of the religion department at Lehman High School in Sidney in 1991, living at Sacred Heart in McCartyville until he became pastor of St. Boniface in Piqua in 1993. He became pastor of St. John the Baptist in Tipp City in 2002.

Francis Massarella, 88, was ordained in 1941. After five years as a member of Glenmary Home Missioners and six years as a Trappist monk in Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky, he returned to Cincinnati as an assistant chaplain at Good Samaritan Hospital. He served at St. Mary's Piqua (1952), Guardian Angels in Cincinnati (1952), St. Patrick in Cincinnati (1953), St. Mary in Springfield (1954), St. Edward in Cincinnati (1955), and at Sienna House, now known as Mercy Sienna Retirement Community. He has been chaplain at Mercy Sienna since 1956.

Massarella is one of four priests of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati who have been returned to ministry after substantiated reports of offending against a minor. All are under continuing therapy and supervision, with restrictions on their contacts with children.

During an examination of priest personnel records in 1993 to determine whether any priests still in service had abused children, the Archdiocese found references to complains that Massarella had inappropriately touched young girls in 1952-53 and in 1954. He admitted to the activity at the time of the complaints. Since 1993, Massarella has been under restrictions that include no presence at activities with children and no visits to private homes.

The Archdiocese continues to urge anyone who has ever been sexually abused by an agent of the Archdiocese to report it the Chancellor of the Archdiocese, Farther Joseph Binzer (513-421-3131), as well as to the secular legal authorities.


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