Church Settles Sexual Abuse Suit

April 18, 1994

A man suffering from AIDS who dropped sexual abuse charges against Chicago's Cardinal Joseph Bernardin has reached an out-of-court settlement in his lawsuit involving another priest and Cincinnati's Archdiocese, the church said.

Former seminary student Stephen Cook, 34, will be paid an undisclosed sum to settle the $10 million lawsuit that accused a Cincinnati priest of molesting him in the late 1960s and early 1970s and charged Roman Catholic church officials with ignoring the situation, a Cincinnati Archdiocese spokesman said. Bernardin became the highest-ranking U.S. church leader to be accused of sexual improprieties until Cook dropped the allegations against him in February, saying that his recollections about Bernardin brought out through hypnosis were unreliable.

Bernardin was the archbishop in Cincinnati while Cook was a seminary student. The cardinal, now 65, has steadfastly denied all charges. Cook, who has an advanced case of AIDS, maintained that Reverend Ellis Harsham repeatedly molested him when he was a 17-year-old student at Saint Gregory Seminary in Cincinnati.

Harsham, 52, now runs a campus ministry programme at nearby Wright State University.

Cook's attorney, Andrew Lipton, told the Dayton Daily News that his client was satisfied with the settlement, although it did not include an admission of guilt by Harsham.

''(Cook) doesn't want to spend the rest of his life, which may be short, dealing with the stress of litigation,'' Lipton told the newspaper.


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