Three Priests Placed on Administrative Leave; All Deny Allegations
By Tricia Hempel
The Catholic Telegraph [Cincinnati OH]
March 16, 2005
ARCHDIOCESE -Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk placed three priests on administrative leave March 9 as a result of findings by the fund tribunal administering the $3 million Archdiocese Claim Resolution Compensation Fund.
The independent panel - made up of Cincinnati attorney Robert Stachler, Judge Thomas Nurre and retired judge and Xavier University professor Ann Marie Tracey - concluded that accusations that Stanley Doerger, Michael Paraniuk and David Vincent had sexually abused minors were plausible enough to warrant compensation to complainants.
According to a press release issued by the archdiocese March 8, "the archbishop's action is not to be taken as a presumption of guilt."
"The purpose of the fund tribunal is to compensate and reconcile with victims of sexual abuse, not to establish guilt or innocence of the accused. However, the findings by a panel of three such highly respected legal professionals gives the accusations the 'semblance of truth,' which is the point at which a priest is to be removed from ministry under U.S. church law, pending further investigation," the statement said.
Removal from ministry is the strongest action a diocesan bishop can take against a priest on his own. It means the priest can no longer present himself as a priest and may not function as a priest in presiding at sacraments or rites of the church.
The three cases will be processed in accordance with U.S. church law, and it may take several years before a final determination is made.
Ordained in 1981, Michael Paraniuk has served for more than a decade as chaplain at Children's Hospital and Mercy Health Partners Mt. Airy, and for the Cincinnati Fire Department. He also a part-time associate at St. Bernard in Winton Place
In 1995, a man reported to the archdiocese that Paraniuk abused him in 1983 in a private home before he had became a hospital chaplain. Paraniuk denied the accusation. The archdiocese investigated and concluded that the accusation was unsubstantiated.
The man came forward to the archdiocese again in 2004 with the same accusation but with details that were dissimilar from his earlier account. A further investigation was initiated, but persons close to the complainant could not confirm key points of the new version of the allegation.
Paraniuk appeared on several radio and television programs in Cincinnati to deny the allegations of abuse.
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"I have much peace about this," he told The Catholic Telegraph. "I guess that's because I have deep faith that God's hand is in all of this. I have peace because I have forgiven, and I'm freed from resentment. I have forgiven all the parties involved: [local attorney] Konrad Kircher for demeaning my good name, the alleged victim for these accusations. There is something that God wants me to learn and do from this cross."
Paraniuk said he had known the possibility existed that the accusation against him would resurface with the alleged victim seeking money. "But I never suspected I'd be suspended," he said. "This case was investigated three times, and three times it was found to be unsubstantiated. I was shocked when the archbishop said 'I have to suspend you.'"
Paraniuk said there is irony in the situation because the tribunal members asked him if the alleged victim in this case should receive money. "I was the one that suggested that giving him money might bring closure to him - not because I was guilty, but because I thought it would help him end this.
"And Robert Stachler pointed to me and said, 'But if we do this, we're not saying you're guilty.' And I agreed under those terms."
The former chaplain noted that "even the alleged victim's own parents support my story. They've said, 'We've never seen this priest, this priest has never been to our home,'. . . where the abuse allegedly occurred."
Despite his shock at being placed on leave, Paraniuk said he did not hold Archbishop Pilarczyk responsible. "I've been approached by lawyers offering to help me sue the bishop. I will not do that. I don't agree with his decision, but it's moot. Seeds of doubt have been planted among the faithful. The system is very broken. How can an innocent priest end up suspended?"
Paraniuk has been overwhelmed with calls of support and said he will take some time to figure out what to do next. "Everything I've worked for for 41 years has been stripped from me," he said. "I have to look for a job. I still want to do some form of ministry, even though it may not be priestly ministry."
Even if he is reinstated following review of his case by the Child Protection Review Board and possibly by the Vatican, Paraniuk is aware he will probably never be able to return to the ministry he loved at Cincinnati Children's Hospital.
"I've been there 21 years, and I have a spotless record," he said somberly. "We figured out that I ministered to 100,000 kids. I did more than a thousand of their funerals. I served the Lord well at Children's. If I was a pedophile, look at the feast I would have had there. But it didn't happen."
The last sermon he preached the day before being placed on leave was "Keep the Faith." "That's easy to do when things are going good, but when you're being nailed to the cross - that's when you have to keep the faith," Paraniuk said.
Stanley Doerger, pastor of St. Bernard Church in Taylor's Creek, has been a priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati since 1958. Like the other priests, he denies all of the allegations made against him.
In 2003, a woman alleged that she was abused in the 1970s at St. Rita School for the Deaf while a student there. The accusations were examined by an outside investigator hired by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. The investigation found that persons close to the complainant disagreed with many of the facts and assertions included in the allegation.
Since 2003, a group of persons who say they are former students at St. Rita School for the Deaf have demanded that Doerger be removed because of allegations that he physically, sexually and verbally abused more than 275 female students at St. Rita School for the Deaf.
Dan Andriacco, director of communications for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, noted that "these allegations are out there, reported in the media and appearing on websites. We wanted to have an opportunity to say that no one has ever come forward to us. They say there are more than 275 victims, but they have never provided us with names."
Doerger himself expresses incredulity at the number of alleged victims being claimed by accusers. "The deaf kids I knew at St. Rita's would not be afraid to speak out if they had been abused," he said. "Where are these 275 victims?"
"All the kids lived in open dormitories - there were no private rooms. All of the dorms were belled, and all had an inside room for a housemother or dorm supervisor, who was always there. Anyone coming or going would always be seen."
Doerger recalls well one incident at St. Rita's School that has been labeled as abuse by alleged victims. It involved a female student who got into trouble with her dorm supervisor and was violently throwing things. He arrived on the scene to find the student still breaking glass and the supervisor bleeding. "I grabbed the girl; she bit me, and I slapped her," he recalls. "She stopped, apologized, and began to clean up the glass." He reported the incident to Evendale police. But when a member of the student's family arrived later, "the story changed - that I had abused her," he said.
"Don't you think during that time if all these kids were being beaten - they all went to the same doctor - don't you think he would have picked that up?" he asked.
One accuser claimed that Doerger at one time looked into the girls' shower room at St. Rita's. "The investigator went out to St. Rita's and got the plans of the school from that time," he said. "The plans showed that the only way I could have looked into the shower room was through the duct work, and the investigator knew I couldn't have gotten into the ducts, given my size."
He does not remember having any major run-ins or problems with any of his accusers, only that one has blamed him for her brother's failure to receive a diploma.
Doerger said he was not surprised to learn of the two persons who filed claims with the tribunal, and he met with the tribunal members to explain each of these situations. "I was surprised by the comment one of the tribunal members said, that 'even if we give them money, it doesn't mean you're guilty.' When I left, I asked the tribunal, 'What should I do now?' And they told me, 'Keep on being a good priest."
But when he found himself meeting with Archbishop Pilarczyk, a high school classmate, on March 8, to learn he was being placed on leave, Doerger said he told the archbishop, "This is unjust. Not only for me, but for the people I'm serving."
He said he talked to the archbishop about whether or not something could be done, but was told that because of the tribunal's decision to award money to his alleged victims, he had to be put on leave.
Doerger hopes that further review and investigation will lead to his reinstatement. "I'll be 72 this month," he said. "If I'm not reinstated, my career is done. I haven't made any permanent decisions. If a reinstatement would come quickly, and I was allowed to go back to the parish . . . going back to the parish would be no problem."
"My name's been dragged through the mud, and I've been around the block enough that I can deal with it, but the school - St. Rita's, since its founding in 1915, has had such a great reputation and has done such a good job - I hate to see its name out there."
David Vincent, pastor of St. Denis, Versailles, and Holy Family, Frenchtown, was ordained in 1964.
Within the past year, a man reported to the Archdiocese Claim Resolution Compensation Fund that Vincent abused him during a Latin class at Elder High School sometime around 1970.
At the present time, archdiocesan authorities have few specifics about the accusation, said Dan Andriacco. There is no record that such an incident was ever reported to the archdiocese.
In March 2004, another man alleged that Vincent sexually abused him in the 1980s. The archdiocese reported this to civil authorities, but the accuser has not cooperated with the investigation by civil authorities.
In a letter to all members of his parishes, Vincent refers to the allegations by the former Elder student and writes, "I did not do what the man has accused me of doing. Through the grace of God, I have lived my life according to the moral law and the priestly vocation I have received. However, because of the climate of the world today, the archbishop has put me on administrative leave."
"I do not envy the job of archbishop," Vincent added. "If someone had accused one of my staff of something like this, I would have had to put that person on administrative leave until we could show innocence."
Vincent said he hopes to return to active duty in the priesthood, but if this proves not to be possible, "I still intend to live out my life in a way faithful to God and His holy Catholic Church."
He asked his parishioners to continue to support the parish and the diocese, including such programs as the Archbishop's Annual Fund Drive, reminding them that none of the money raised in the drive goes to settle claims of abuse. "It supports the work of the church in social services, marriage preparation, retirement of priests, work with migrants and other good causes," he said.
The three men were the only active priests of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati against whom claims were determined by the tribunal fund to be plausible. All of the accusations presented to the Archdiocese Claim Resolution Compensation Fund, whether held plausible by the fund tribunal or not, have been reported to civil authorities.
"The payments to victims of abuse being made through the Archdiocese Claim Resolution Compensation Fund constitute an act of contrition on the part of the archdiocese for the harm that its agents (priests or lay employees) inflicted on persons who trusted them," Archbishop Pilarczyk said.
"While I realize that no amount of money can make up for the harm and hurt that claimants have suffered, I hope that they will take the action of the fund as a sign of our sincere sorrow for what happened, and that they will be able to forgive us.
"I express the gratitude of the archdiocese for the work of the Fund Tribunal and its staff.
"Once more I urge anyone who was abused as a child by a priest or any other representative of the archdiocese, or knows someone who was, to report the abuse immediately to the secular legal authorities and to the chancellor of the archdiocese, Father Joseph Binzer, at (513) 421-3131 or (800) 686-2724."
Father Thomas Snodgrass has been named temporary administrator of St. Bernard Parish. Father John Porter has been named temporary administrator of St. Denis in Versailles and Holy Family in Frenchtown.
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