Diocese Supports Priest Who Faced Lawsuit over Alleged Abuse

Associated Press State & Local Wire
April 5, 2002

The local Catholic diocese says it believes allegations against a priest accused of raping a 12-year-old boy in 1984 are false.

The allegations surfaced in a special ABC News report Wednesday night on the topic of sexual abuse and the priesthood. Although the network did not name the priest, it referred to him as living and working in the Kalamazoo diocese.

"We are afraid that fairness, objective pursuit of truth, and legitimate confidentiality have become casualties in the current climate surrounding the scandal of priestly misconduct," the Rev. James Murray, bishop of the Diocese of Kalamazoo, said in a statement Thursday.

The alleged abuse occurred when the boy, now 29 and living in Grand Haven, was growing up on a U.S. Navy base in Keflavik, Iceland, the Kalamazoo Gazette reported Friday.

The Rev. Carl Peltz, a priest from the Diocese of Steubenville in Ohio who now is pastor of St. Ambrose Church in Parchment, near Kalamazoo, was working as a Navy chaplain at the time, The Herald-Star in Steubenville reported.

A message seeking comment was left Friday with Peltz at his church.

The alleged victim and his father said they are troubled that the priest has been allowed to serve churches and be around children all these years. The alleged victim told the Kalamazoo newspaper he did not know where the priest was working until he was approached this week by ABC News.

The man said he is upset that local Catholic officials and others don't believe his story.

"They believed the priest, but not me. How fair is that?" the man told the Kalamazoo newspaper.

The abuse allegation was contained in a lawsuit filed in 1991 by the man and his parents. The $5 million suit in U.S. District Court in Columbus, Ohio, was settled by the Diocese of Steubenville for $25,000.

The boy's family alleges that the boy went to Peltz's office in the base chapel one day in 1984. According to the suit, Peltz was intoxicated when the youngster arrived, and offered him something to drink.

After the youth had consumed two glasses of Scotch whiskey, the priest "suddenly and forcibly threw the boy to the floor," raped him, and "threatened to kill him if he told anyone about the incident," the lawsuit states.

Church officials say Naval records show that Peltz was not even in Iceland at the time specified in the lawsuit.

Murray said the Kalamazoo diocese was aware of the lawsuit when the priest was first invited to serve there in 1997. Also at that time, the diocese reviewed psychiatric evaluations that the priest had undergone.

"There is nothing on those evaluations that indicate that he was predisposed to have engaged in the type of conduct that has been alleged," Murray said.

Friday, several parishioners at St. Ambrose Church say they support their priest.

"I truly believe he is innocent," said Bob Stoops, who has worked closely with the Peltz, including on the parish council. "Father Peltz once said he believes hell is made for priests who don't live their lives right."


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