Case against Church Reopened

By Dan Horn
Cincinnati Enquirer
May 6, 2006

A Cincinnati woman will get another chance to prove in court that a Catholic priest impregnated her 40 years ago and then coerced her into putting the baby girl up for adoption.

The woman, who has not been identified, sued the Archdiocese of Cincinnati two years ago, accusing church officials of covering up the priest's misconduct and pressuring her to keep quiet about the child's father.

A judge threw out the lawsuit last year after concluding the allegations were too old to pursue under Ohio's statute of limitations.

The Ohio 1st District Court of Appeals overturned that decision Friday, saying the woman should get a chance to prove that fraud and harassment by church officials prevented her from filing the lawsuit sooner.

The court also ruled that the woman should have the opportunity to prove that her religious indoctrination contributed to her fear of acting against the church.

"She was induced - browbeaten, if you will - not to come forward," said her attorney, Marc Mezibov.

Church officials said they would appeal the ruling to the Ohio Supreme Court.

"We believe the appeals court has misconstrued Ohio law," said archdiocese spokesman Dan Andriacco.

The case is unusual because most appeals courts have backed lower courts that dismiss sexual abuse suits based on the statute of limitations. The Ohio Supreme Court is expected to rule soon on whether dozens of other abuse suits - most of which have been dismissed - can proceed.

In the case decided Friday, the appeals court ordered Common Pleas Judge Ethna Cooper to hear evidence about fraud and other allegations before deciding whether the statute of limitations should apply.

The woman claims the priest, Norman Heil, had sex with her several times in 1965 while she was a student at Regina High School in Norwood. She claims Heil, who left the priesthood in 1966 and died in 1988, sometimes heard the girl's confessions and absolved her of her sins, including the sin of having sex with him.

Mezibov said his client gave the child, now 40, up for adoption. He said the two recently reunited when the daughter began searching for her mother.


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