Friends, Family Say Accusations against Priest Hard to Believe
The Associated Press, carried in Independent Record [Montana]
February 22, 2006
HAVRE (AP) — Friends and family members of a late Roman Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing a boy in Alaska are speaking out in his defense, saying they don't believe the priest they knew would have molested anyone.
"We will do anything to clear his name," said Marcia Kostas of Great Falls, the niece of the Rev. Bernard McMeel. "We don't believe for a minute the allegations against him."
McMeel, who died in the early 1990s, is one of two Jesuit priests named in a lawsuit filed earlier this month by a man identified only as Jake Doe 1.
He alleges McMeel and the Rev. Andrew Eordogh molested him when he was a child living in Alaska. Eordogh has since retired and now lives in Hungary.
The plaintiff, who was raised in Anchorage, Holy Cross and Bethel, said he was abused on multiple occasions between 1967 and 1970, beginning when he was 4 years old. He said McMeel abused him first, then "handed him off" to Eordogh.
McMeel moved to Hays, on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, in 1978 and served at St. Paul's Mission Church until his death. The lawsuit said McMeel died in 1992. His family and newspaper articles indicate he died in 1994.
Sister Laura Fucito, who worked with McMeel, said everyone who knew McMeel on the reservation was stunned by the accusations.
"There is nothing negative I can say about him," she told the Havre Daily News. "He had only shown excellent conduct at all times. There was never a complaint against him. He was a genuine person."
Kostas said there has been an outpouring of support for McMeel, who was born in Great Falls, since information about the lawsuit became public.
The suit claims the church reassigned McMeel to St. Paul's Mission after the Jesuits learned he had molested a child.
Kostas and others said those allegations are untrue. McMeel had visited the reservation previously and agreed to come to Hays at the parish's request, when it needed a new priest, she said.
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