'Compassion' Is Key in Abuses, Church Says

By David E. Kepple
Dayton Daily News
June 29, 1994

Compassion is the byword as the Archdiocese of Cincinnati deals with what it calls a "substantiated" allegation of child sexual abuse brought against the Rev. Ellis Harsham of Beavercreek.

Under the terms of the archdiocese's Decree on Child Abuse, that compassion extends to the needs of the victim, the victim's family, the local church community and the archdiocese, and to the accused.

The archdiocese announced last weekend that Harsham had been placed on administrative leave, with pay, from his duties as a campus minister at Wright State University. The action followed the substantiation of a sexual abuse allegation stemming from the early 1970s.

Substantiation of the charge does not necessarily mean officials regard it as proven conclusively, and Harsham, 52, has denied the allegation.

The Roman Catholic priest served as associate pastor of St. Helen Catholic Church from June 1968 to June 1973. At the same time, he taught at nearby Carroll High School.

Last fall, he was accused of child sexual abuse in a lawsuit filed by Steven Cook, a Philadelphia man who grew up in Cincinnati, where Harsham once taught.

Then, some former Carroll students - most being quoted anonymously - said Harsham showed them pornographic films and exhibited other questionable behavior at Carroll during the early 1970s. A few ex-students said Harsham seduced them or attempted to seduce them.

Harsham denied those allegations.

Ray George, director of communications for the archdiocese, said Tuesday archdiocesan procedures in this matter are confidential and he could not comment on whether the substantiated case involved someone at Carroll or St. Helen.

Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk's statement on Harsham was read during weekend worship services at both St. Helen and at St. Luke Catholic Church in Beavercreek, where Harsham has lived since 1981.

George said the statement was read at St. Helen because "there are people (there) who will remember him as having been assigned there. The response team naturally wants to be present to those people, if this has caused some confusion or anger."

In cases of abuse, the archdiocese sets up a response team to help anyone affected by the incident.

"They (the response team) want to listen and they want to respond to those people who are affected by this action. . . . It's a time for healing," George said.

In this case, the team consists of the Rev. Earl Simone, pastor of St. Peter Catholic Church in Huber Heights; Dennis Breitenbach, a licensed social worker; and Helen Frank, a licensed psychologist.

For the victim and the victim's family, the team's tasks cover areas such as psychological evaluation, medical treatment, and continuing assistance as needed.

For the accused, the abuse decree provides for therapy, as well as examining the issue of any future role in church life, and public disclosure at any future assignments.

Only the archbishop can decide if someone guilty of abuse can be reinstated, and several criteria must be met.

"Abusing a child sexually is extremely serious," the decree states.

"Reinstating a cleric . . . who is guilty of such abuse carries enormous risk, especially if the offender suffers from an irreversible psychological disorder.

"Nevertheless, in some cases reinstatement may be warranted. Only the archbishop, after careful deliberation, can make this decision."


The offender fully acknowledges his sexually exploitive acts.

The offender accepts responsibility for the offending behavior and exonerates the victims from any complicity in the acts.

The offender has begun a treatment process. The archbishop has received an assessment from the therapist indicating that the offender can perform his assignment without being a risk to children.

The offender can identify factors that tend to precipitate his desire to be sexual with children and has developed corrective strategies.

Any alcohol or substance abuse is being treated, and there is no evidence of continued use or abuse.

The offender acknowledges that the process of recovery is a lifelong endeavor, and agrees to pursue such a process.

The offender makes an open announcement about the history of offending behavior and acknowledges that the victim was right to have reported the behavior.

The offender agrees not to be alone in the company of children.

The archbishop appoints a mentor who will work with the offender.

The staff and local church community are advised of all of the preceding.

The archbishop agrees to the reinstatement.

SOURCE: Archdiocese of Cincinnati's Decree on Child Abuse.


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