Harsham Resigns from Priesthood
Former WSU Cleric May Return to Teaching

By Cathy Mong
Dayton Daily News
October 14, 1994

Ellis N. Harsham has officially stepped into secular life, choosing to shed the Roman Catholic status of priesthood by resigning from active ministry.

Harsham has been a priest since 1968 and in the national spotlight since last November when he was charged with sexual abuse. He headed the campus ministry at Wright State University and was a part-time priest at St. Luke Catholic Church in Beavercreek.

He is believed to be out of the Dayton area and could not be reached for comment.

His attorney, Tom Miller of Cincinnati, said Harsham told him he plans to pursue work in the private sector, "perhaps do some teaching." He taught biology and religion at Carroll High School from 1968 to 1973.

Miller, who wouldn't reveal Harsham's whereabouts, said Harsham's goals are "more readily achievable for him outside the Catholic community."

He said Harsham's decision to resign from the clergy had nothing to do with the charges against him.

"He's never been proven guilty by the court," Miller said. "The church has never said he's done anything wrong." He said no charges are currently pending against his client.

Harsham has been on administrative leave of absence from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati since June 25 following its substantiation of an allegation of child abuse against him.

Harsham's troubles with the church began last fall when Steven J. Cook of Philadelphia, formerly of Cincinnati, accused Harsham of sexual abuse in the 1970s when Cook was a pre-seminary student.

Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk said the archdiocese had received several complaints against Harsham, the most recent in 1981. Only one of those complaints alleged sexual contact or contact with a minor, he said.

Harsham has denied sexual contact with a minor throughout the allegations.

Cook's attorney, Andrew S. Lipton of Cincinnati, said he believed an appropriate resolution had been reached with Harsham's resignation.

His client reached an out-of-court agreement with Harsham and the archdiocese April 18.

Lipton said during the course of handling the litigation "we uncovered a significant amount of information that raised questions about Harsham's suitability as a priest."

Harsham's decision to resign was strictly his own, said Ray George, the archdiocese communication's director.

"What he has said is he no longer wants to be active in the ministry nor wants to be identified in the ministry as a reverend or father. With his resignation he would relinquish that title," George said.

Lynnette Heard, director of WSU campus communications, said Harsham's replacement in the campus ministry is the Rev. Chris Rohmiller.

The ecumenical campus ministry program is owned and operated by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and is independent of the university.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.