Three Former Students Allege Harsham Acted Lewdly

Chicago Sun-Times
November 21, 1993

DAYTON, Ohio — Three men said a priest named in a sex abuse lawsuit against Roman Catholic Joseph Cardinal Bernardin acted lewdly with them and other high school students during the early 1970s, the Dayton Daily News reported Saturday.

Two of the men said the Rev. Ellis Harsham showed them pornographic movies, while one claimed the priest once grabbed the man's crotch. The newspaper did not identify the three former Carroll High School students who requested anonymity. Harsham, 52, could not be reached for comment.

Steven J. Cook, 34, of Philadelphia, has filed a $ 10 million lawsuit alleging that Bernardin, then archbishop in Cincinnati, and Harsham sexually abused him when he was a preseminary high school student in Cincinnati in the mid-1970s. Both Bernardin, who lives in Chicago, and Harsham have denied the allegations.

After his ordination in May, 1968, Harsham was assigned as associate pastor of St. Helen Catholic Church in Mad River Township and to teach biology and religion at Carroll. He remained in those posts through June 20, 1973. He was an instructor at St. Gregory Seminary in Cincinnati in the 1970s, and now heads a campus ministry program at Wright State University.

"He'd tell you a dirty joke in the confessional," said one man, identified by the Daily News as a 1975 Carroll graduate. Now 36, he is a criminal justice administrator living in a Western state.

The Daily News said the man offered to cooperate with any official investigation of the priest. The man said he tried to tell his parents about Harsham's behavior, "but they just didn't want to hear it. They didn't want to talk about it."


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