Abuse Allegation about Priest Came from New Haven

Journal Gazette
December 8, 2011

An allegation of sexual abuse by a local priest involved a teenage boy and took place before July 1997 near New Haven, law enforcement and diocesan officials confirmed Thursday.

But the allegation, reported to the Allen County Sheriff’s Department by an attorney for the Fort Wayne-South Bend Catholic Diocese, says no physical contact occurred between the teen and the priest, the Rev. Thomas C. Lombardi.

Lombardi, 62, was stationed at St. Louis Catholic Church-Besancon/New Haven between 1986 and July 1997. Lombardi was removed this month from his current post at St. Joseph Catholic Church-Hessen Cassel, pending a diocesan investigation of the alleged abuse.

According to the report provided to the sheriff’s department, the teen, who estimated he was about 16 at the time, was lifting weights in a room at 15535 Old Lincoln Highway East, the St. Louis Catholic Church’s address, when he asked the priest how working out would affect his muscles.

At that point, Lombardi asked the boy to remove his shirt and pants. The boy did as Lombardi asked. Nothing else occurred, according to the account the lawyer provided the sheriff’s office.

The alleged victim’s name was not provided to police because he wanted it to remain confidential. Police told the attorney to tell the man, now more than 30 years old, to contact police if he wanted to, according to sheriff’s department spokesman Jeremy Tinkel.

Tinkel said Thursday the alleged incident is not currently being investigated because no victim has come forward. In addition, it’s unclear whether a crime was committed based on the story, Tinkel said.

Monsignor Robert C. Schulte, diocesan vicar general, confirmed Thursday the contents of the report. He said no one else has come forward with additional allegations against Lombardi, who was assigned to St. Joseph Catholic Church in Garrett in July 1997.

He said he doubted any report led to the reassignment.

“We didn’t know this. This has just come up recently,” Schulte said. “We didn’t know anything about it back in 1997.”

Chuck Shoudel, 46, a longtime member of St. Joseph in Garrett who now lives in Kalamazoo, Mich., said Lombardi came to that parish after the death of a previous priest.

He said weightlifting was a longtime interest of Lombardi’s and one that he and the priest shared.

“He liked to work out,” Shoudel said in a telephone interview Thursday. “He had lost a lot of weight at one time; he was just dieting and trying to get to better health.

“He had a weight set down at the rectory in Garrett and we had conversations about it (weightlifting). … Nothing sexually or anything like that ever came up in our conversations, and we spoke frequently.”

Shoudel said Lombardi was an active priest, involved in setting up a community health clinic, a meal center and a clothing bank for the needy in Garrett, teaching classes for parishioners and restoring the church’s baptismal font and a devotional grotto.

“I can’t see Father Tom doing anything like that,” he said of the allegation. “He was always very strict and went by our Catholic faith.”



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