Church Removes Honorary Plaque after Sex Abuse Allegations

By Autumn Ziemba
Fox 8
June 15, 2011,0,5981491.story

PARMA, Ohio — A Parma church is no longer honoring its founder, after several woman have come forward with allegations of sexual abuse.

St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Parma has removed a plaque honoring the late Reverend Monsignor Nicholas Monaghan.

Monaghan died 40 years ago, but some say his memory has already left a painful mark.

"To me he was like, next to God, and so you wanted to be hugged too, and he would kiss us on the cheek and tell us we were good little girls," recalls 70-year-old Shirley, who asked Fox 8 to keep her last name private.

Shirley spent eight years at the St. Charles Catholic School in Parma, from 1946 to 1954, under the direction of the late Reverend Monaghan.

"If [the students] were together, we would say 'Father Monaghan's coming,' and we would all run in different directions," she recalls from her school days.

The same man who has been honored with a church plaque for 54 years, is now coming under scrutiny.

"I don't think he should be honored in that way," Shirley says.

She is one of half a dozen women who have come forward in recent months, claiming that Monaghan molested them decades ago, in the place they found most sacred and safe.

"He put his hands somewhere near my waist and slowly they moved up and he rubbed up and down and I pulled away," Shirley recalls the act vividly. "I thought maybe that was an accident, then another time, he rubbed a little longer."

"When the other party has been dead for 40 years, it really makes it very difficult to make a determination," says Bob Tayek with the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland.

Tayek says it was 2008 when the first complaint about Monaghan surfaced.

He says, since the accusation was made in good faith, the diocese paid for the woman's therapy, but was hesitant to take further actions.

"We really did want to hear from more than just one individual to understand if there was some type of pattern or practice here," Tayek explains.

Thanks to Shirley's account, among up to five others, the parish council for St. Charles decided to remove the plaque on Tuesday.

While the closure is 60 years in the making, Shirley says her patience and her faith paid off.

"I'm talking more about [the molestation] than I ever did in my life," she explains. "You never can take back what happened, but at least he's not being honored."

Tayek says Monaghan's name has also been removed from the parish hall.

He says the diocese continues to encourage any victims of abuse--past or present--to come forward, so that they can provide any necessary counseling or support.


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