Bishop Says He Reassigned Abusive Priest

By Joe Milicia
Associated Press, carried in The Dispatch [Cleveland OH]
July 19, 2005

Bishop Anthony M. Pilla testified Tuesday in a defamation case against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cleveland that he twice reassigned a priest who allegedly sexually assaulted a minor.

Pilla said the decision was made after the priest, the Rev. James Mulica, had been treated for an alcohol problem at a treatment center for Catholic clergy.

"I was told that the mental experts at Guest House had indicated that Father Mulica could be reassigned to ministry without any restrictions," Pilla said.

The bishop said he did not inform either parish about the priest's past. He added that he did not know if subordinates might have.

The statements came in a 4 1/2-hour deposition in a defamation lawsuit filed against the diocese by alleged victim Christopher Kodger and his parents. They accuse the diocese of falsely stating in 2002 that they supported Mulica's reassignment. The deposition was released by the court.

Mulica allegedly assaulted Kodger in 1981, according to court documents. Age 14 at the time, Kodger told his parents, who called Pilla's home that night.

No charges were filed against Mulica, and the family agreed to a settlement of $45,000 on the condition that Mulica not be permitted to work near children, said Kodger's attorney William Crosby.

The diocese sent Mulica to be treated for two years at the treatment center. He then returned to the diocese and was reassigned to a parish with a school.

The national sex abuse scandal that erupted in 2002 was sparked by revelations that many bishops had moved guilty priests among parish assignments without warning parents or police.

When the scandal broke out, the diocese issued a statement through spokesman Bob Tayek that the Kodger family was consulted on Mulica's reassignment.

"They accused us of being complicit in the transfer of Father Mulica," Kodger's father, Donald, said in an interview. "We had nothing to do with Father Mulica's transfer other than oppose it every moment of our lives."

Tayek declined to comment on the case.

Pilla is not a defendant in the case, which is scheduled for a jury trial in January. The family is asking for damages of more than $25,000.

Mulica was pastor of the Chapel of the Divine Word in Kirtland when the abuse occurred. He was later assigned to St. Jude Church in Elyria in 1985 and two years later to Holy Redeemer Church in Cleveland. Both had schools.

He was granted disability leave in 1989 and placed on administrative leave in 2002 because of allegations of child sex abuse.


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