Lawsuit Accuses Priest of Sexual Abuse

By Bill Sammon
Plain Dealer [Cleveland Ohio]
May 25, 1993

A Florida man alleges in a lawsuit that a priest sexually molested him more than a quarter-century ago.

Robert Harrison is suing Anthony Muzic, then a priest at St. Brendan Catholic Church in North Olmsted, and the Cleveland Catholic Diocese for $1.25 million in damages. The suit was filed last week in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.

Muzic could not be reached for comment. On Friday, he temporarily stepped down as pastor of St. Mark Catholic Church in Cleveland because of diocesan policy. "I met with him Friday, and Father Muzic has denied the charges," said the Rev. Donald Cozzens, the diocese's vicar for clergy and religious personnel. "Can you imagine how you would feel if someone had accused you of something over a quarter of a century ago? Tony Muzic has a clear record with the exception of this allegation."

Harrison also could not be reached for comment.

According to the lawsuit, he was an altar boy at St. Brendan's in 1965 and 1966, when Muzic was pastor of the parish. The suit alleged that Muzic, suffering from "chronic alcoholism," ingratiated himself to Harrison's family by acting as a friend and spiritual counselor.

Muzic, the suit alleges, "would provide sacristy wine and other alcohol" to Harrison when he served as an altar boy. Once Harrison was intoxicated, "Muzic would grab him and grind his own genital area into the plaintiff's buttocks, feigning that such conduct was just a prank or adolescent fun," the suit says.

Harrison was instructed to serve Mass while wearing no clothes under his cassocks, the suit says. The suit goes on to allege that Muzic pulled off Harrison's bathing suit when the two were swimming at Cedar Point during a parish-sponsored outing.

On another occasion, Muzic arranged to have Harrison and several other boys spend the evening at St. Brendan's Rectory, the suit says.

"Muzic crept into the bed occupied by (Harrison) and, having rendered (Harrison) helpless with large quantities of alcohol, proceeded to sexually assault (Harrison)," the suit said.

It wasn't until some 25 years later, when Harrison's mother died, that the memories of these incidents came flooding into Harrison's consciousness, said Patrick J. Holland, one of Harrison's lawyers.

Harrison repressed memories of the incidents, which were "not within the grasp of his conscious memory until sometime in 1991 or 1992 when the psychic resurrection of these events caused him physical and emotional damages," the suit says.

Harrison went to the diocese for help and was referred to counselors. But Harrison said those counselors merely pumped him for information that the church could use to defend itself in the event of a lawsuit.

The suit blames St. Brendan's and the diocese for failing to adequately supervise Muzic despite knowing he was an alcoholic.


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