|Syracuse Diocese Disputes Kentucky Man's Claims the Church Ignored His Sexual Abuse Claims
By Jim O'Hara
May 23, 2011
Syracuse, NY - Daniel Franz candidly admitted today he was trying to embarass the Syracuse Roman Catholic Diocese by holding a press conference outside the downtown diocesan offices to claim the church had basically ignored his claims he was molested by a priest.
Franz, now 47 and a resident of Louisville, Ky., claims he was an innocent 17-year-old when he volunteered through his high school to work at a church-run camp in West Virginia only to be molested by a Syracuse priest there.
He said he came to Syracuse today - along with The Rev. Robert Hoatson of New Jersey, a suspended priest who founded a non-profit for victims of clergy abuse - to challenge the local diocese to "do the right thing" by providing the counseling and therapy he needs to heal from the abuse he suffered at the hands of former priest David Pichette.
Diocese spokeswoman Danielle Cummings sharply disputed a number of Franz's and Hoatson's claims. She noted the diocese had made numerous attempts to offer Franz counseling but had never heard back from Franz.
Franz today initially claimed he had heard nothing from the diocese. When informed of Cummings' response, he admitted his lawyer had received one letter from the diocese offering counseling and therapy.
He then admitted he and his lawyer never responded to that because they did not believe the diocese response was sufficient. Franz said he believed he deserved to be contacted directly by the diocese and provided a personal apology from the bishop.
Cummings said the bishop has met face-to-face with numerous clergy-abuse victims and has apologized during those sessions. But that never happened with Franz - Cummings declined to identify him by name even after he held the press conference on the street outside the diocesan offices and identified himself publicly - because Franz never followed up on the church's offer to help, she said.
Franz's account of the timing of his contacts with the diocese also did not match church records, Cummings said.
Franz said he first contacted the church sometime in 2010 to report he had been molested by Pichette 30 years earlier. But Cummings said Franz first contacted the diocese about his complaint back in 2003 but he did not provide any specific information.
"As is the diocesan practice, he was offered the services of the Assistance Coordinator, which he did not pursue," Cummings noted in a written press release.
She also said the diocese repeated its offer a number of times. The only response was a letter from Franz's lawyer last year demanding $1 million, she said.
Franz denied he or his lawyer ever asked the diocese for any money
He and Hoatson offered no explanation for why Franz and his attorney did not follow up on the church's counseling offer beyond saying it wasn't sufficient. They also said they had no intention of asking to meet with church officials while they were in Syracsue today.
"We'd like them to do the right thing," Hoatson said.
Franz's lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian, said by phone today that he did ask the diocese for money without telling his client. He also said the diocese offered counseling.
But he said money would be a "vindication" for clergy-abuse victims and he commended Franz for his courage in going public with his accusations today.
Church officials apparently have not disputed Franz's contention he was molested so many years ago. Franz said the investigator who interviewed him for the diocese in Boston in January concluded his complaint was credible.
Cummings did not dispute that, but said she would not discuss Pichette beyond confirming he had been suspended from acting as a priest in 1993 and formally dismissed as a priest in 2005.
She also said the Syracuse diocese no longer is affiliated with the Nazareth Farm in West Virginia where Franz said he was molested by Pichette in 1981. She said the diocesse did cooperate in running the farm back them and Pichette did serve there as a priest from this diocese.
According to Franz, he was a senior at Trinity High School in Garfield Heights, Ohio, when he heard about the camp at Nazareth Farm where youths could come to help the poor people of West Virginia.
He signed up and spend five days there during which time he said Pichette repeatedly made sexually suggestive remarks and encouraged the boys to bath naked in his presence. That then progressed to Pichette fondling him on a number of occasions, he said.
Franz said the boys talked about Pichette being weird but he never mentioned to the others anything about the sexual abuse he was encountering from the priest.
Franz said he learned many years later that a friend who had been at the farm with him had reportedly similar problems to Trinity High School officials two years later. Franz said his friend later told him that was what prompted the school to cut any ties with the farm two years after they went there.
He also said school officials summoned Pichette to Ohio at that time and Pichette contacted him to try to get him to keep quiet about the abuse.
Franz said he kept quiet until 2002 when he first talked of the abuse to others and sought help.
Franz said he battled feelings of embarassment and guilt at the thought of making any such accusations against the church or a priest given his Catholic upbringing.
But both he and Hoatson - who founded Road to Recovery to counsel clergy-abuse victims - said today they believe Pichette had to have molested other children given his various assignments and the church's action in removing him from the piresthood.
According to information suppied by Cummings, Pichette served at St. Patrick's in Truxton, Bishop Ludden High School in Syracuse, Seton Catholic High School in Binghamton, Blessed Sacrament in Johnson City, St. Margaret's in Mattydale, St. Patrick's in Binghamton, St. Ambrose in Endicott and the Nazareth Farm in Center Point, W. Va.
Nazareth Farm is still in operation as a separate entity with no current link to the Syracuse diocese, Cummings said.
Interestingly, Franz and Cummings said their respective positions are much the same.
He said he wants the necessary counseling to deal with the depression and anger from his abuse to hold his life together. Cummings said the church's first concern is for the spiritual, emotional and physical wellbeing of anyone who claims to be the victim of clergy abuse.
Neither side was talking directly to the other, however.
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