Priest Admits to Court He Fondled Boy in '80s

By Bruce Cadwallader and Sylvia Brooks
Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)
May 19, 1994

A Roman Catholic priest yesterday admitted to sexual contact with a Columbus boy, but he avoided prosecution for alleged assaults on the boy's two older brothers years ago.

The Rev. Michael F. Hanrahan, 48, avoided a trial and pleaded guilty to a bill of information charging him with four counts of gross sexual imposition.

Hanrahan admitted to Judge Alan C. Travis in Franklin County Common Pleas Court that he had sexual contact four times with a boy during 1983 and 1984.

The boy was 11 and 12 then, said George Ellis, an assistant county prosecutor.

Travis ordered a presentence investigation and will hand down a sentence July 8. Hanrahan could face up to 30 years in prison, but he has no criminal record and may be a candidate for probation.

Hanrahan's attorney, Robert DiRosario, declined to comment.

Hanrahan has been in treatment in a Connecticut psychiatric hospital after resigning his position with the Diocese of Columbus last fall.

He had been a priest in the Columbus area since the early 1970s, and he also held positions at parishes in Granville and Newcomerstown, Ohio, Ellis said.

Hanrahan served at two local churches at the time of the incidents: St. Ladislas Church on Reeb Avenue and St. Christopher Church on Grandview Avenue.

In court yesterday, Ellis told Travis that Hanrahan was admitting to fondling the boy's genitals and lying naked next to the boy while performing a simulated sex act. The boy's parents allowed him to sleep over with the priest on occasions, Ellis said.

The charges resulted from a Columbus police investigation earlier this year when the boy, now an adult, came forward with the allegations.

Ellis said the individual, now living out of state, was one of three brothers who claimed they were assaulted by Hanrahan as boys.

Charges were never filed in the other two cases because of the statute of limitations, which requires individuals to file molestation allegations by age 24.

However, the oldest brother, now 26, reached a financial settlement with the diocese last year, according to an official diocesan statement. He was in Travis' courtroom watching the proceedings yesterday.

Valerie Wilson, public relations director for the diocese, said procedures for investigation of claims of sexual abuse by clergy may vary slightly depending on the situation.

"We immediately begin an investigation upon the receipt of a complaint," she said. "The chancellor of the diocese . . . initiates the investigation and is assisted by others, including the diocesan attorney."

If the allegations seem reasonable, the complainant and family are called in for a discussion, and the clergyman accused is offered help.

"If the allegation requires reporting under Ohio law, we immediately report it to the proper authorities," she said.

Diocesan officials also try to offer help to all parties, said the Rev. Joseph Hendricks, vicar general-chancellor for the diocese.


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