Priest Lost Post after Misconduct Allegations

By Art Golab
Chicago Sun-Times
November 17, 1993

The priest who was headmaster of the Cincinnati seminary where Steven Cook said he was sexually molested admitted he transferred the Rev. Ellis Harsham in 1977 following allegations of sexual misconduct.

"They were not blatant things, but inappropriate things," said Rev. Francis Voellmecke, of the reasons for the transfer in a Channel 7 WLS-TV interview Tuesday evening. Voellmecke, who said Harsham's behavior did not include sexual abuse, was headmaster at St. Gregory Seminary during the time in question.

Cook, 34, has said he was sexually molested at the seminary by Harsham and by Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, who was then the archbishop of Cincinnati, while attending a program there between 1975 and 1977.

Harsham was a teacher there at the time the alleged abuse occurred.

On Friday Cook filed a lawsuit naming Harsham, Bernardin, Voellmecke, and the Rev. Daniel Pilarczyk, now the archbishop of Cincinnati, as defendants in a suit seeking $ 10 million in damages.

Voellmecke is charged in the suit with allowing the sexual abuse to take place and with covering up the records of Harsham's transfer.

In the TV interview he denied any cover-up, and when asked where the records were, Voellmecke said: "I don't know. I was not in charge of keeping them."

He said he remembered Cook as an "honest person," but said that Cook may have changed in the intervening years.


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