Syracuse Catholic diocese closes controversial retirement home for priests

By John O'brien
February 9, 2016

The Rev. Chester Misercola, whom the Syracuse diocese defrocked over child-molesting allegations, sits in front of what was then called St. Pius X Hall in 2002.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The Catholic Diocese of Syracuse has closed its retirement home for priests after 59 years, citing financial concerns.

The decision to close the Tommy Coyne Residence for Priests in December was unrelated to concerns raised last year by survivors of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of priests, diocese spokeswoman Danielle Cummings said.

The diocese had been planning for two years to close the home because of the expense, Cummings said. She wouldn't say how many priests were living in the 22-room home when it closed.

"The building simply was becoming too costly and the repairs needed did not justify continuing it as a retirement residence for priests," she said.

Over the past 15 years, the facility was home to at least four priests against whom the diocese had found credible allegations of child-molesting, according to public records. Those priests were monsignors Charles Eckermann, Charles Sewall and John Zeder, and the Rev. Chester Misercola.

Another priest who lived at the home in recent years, the Rev. Robert Ours, was convicted of possessing child pornography.

A priest from the Ogdensburg diocese, John Fallon, also lived at the home starting in 2002. Before moving there, he'd been convicted of possessing child pornography.

Ours, Misercola and Eckermann were living at the home in the past two years, public records show.

Retired priests in good standing were also living at the home, Cummings said.

Two survivors of child-molesting by priests included concerns about the home in a petition they started circulating in the fall. The petition, started by Kevin Braney and Charles Bailey and signed by more than 86,000 people, called for Bishop Robert Cunningham to resign.

In their petition, Braney and Bailey argued that the diocese should not allow the defrocked priests to live in Syracuse without supervision and without reporting them to police.

Cummings said there was "absolutely no connection" between the petition and the closing of the home.

The priests who were still at the home when it closed found their own living arrangements -- either in assisted living facilities or in their own homes, Cummings said.

Braney called it irresponsible for the diocese to release the defrocked priests into the community without warning the public.

"They are just putting their trash in everyone else's back yard," Braney said. "This is just another example of how Bishop Cunningham refuses to take responsibility and exhibit the leadership necessary to protect children in Syracuse."

Braney and Bailey want Cunningham to publicize the names of the 11 priests against whom the diocese has found credible allegations of child-molesting.

Cummings would not say how many of those priests were living at the retirement home.

The home, at 714 E. Brighton Ave. and formerly known as St. Pius X Hall, opened in 1956.

The home is owned by nursing home operator Loretto, which gave the diocese lifetime use of it, Cummings said. The diocese has no plans to open a new retirement home for priests, she said.

The diocese never received complaints from neighbors in the time the diocese used the facility, Cummings said.

The diocese has no immediate plans for the facility, she said.



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