Victim 'Scared to No End' by Local Priest
Man, Now 34, Fondled, Pinned down by Hopp
By Tom Beyerlein and Jim DeBrosse
Dayton Daily News [Ohio]
May 3, 2002
David J. Hoehne vividly recalls the night 22 years ago when he fled the church rectory at St. Michael Catholic Church in Fort Loramie, sprinting the 200 yards to his house and then closing himself off in his room.
He was a 12-year-old altar boy and he had just been molested by a man he thought he could trust - his parish priest, the Rev. Thomas Hopp.
"I was just scared to no end," Hoehne, now 34, said Thursday night in a phone interview from his home in Jacksonville, Fla. "That adrenaline rush you get when something happens to you - that's what it was like." Continued from Page 1A In an emotional five-page letter to Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Hoehne detailed three traumatic encounters with Hopp, now 61. Pilarczyk confronted Hopp with the letter and Hopp admitted that while he couldn't remember the details, Hoehne's allegations were true. Hopp resigned from Queen of Martyrs Church in Harrison Twp. last week and is on paid leave from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in an undisclosed location.
"Our son was violated once by Father Hopp as a child and we feel he's being violated a second time by the archdiocese because this man is still being harbored by the archdiocese," said Hoehne's mother, Virginia. "As far as our Catholic Church, the majority of the priests are very good and we feel they are suffering with us because of this injustice."
The Shelby County prosecutor declined to prosecute Hopp, saying the statute of limitations has run out on the 1980 incident. But Hoehne said; "I have contacted a lawyer. The deal is not closed for me at this time."
In the letter to Pilarczyk, Hoehne said Hopp became friends with his parents, who still live in Fort Loramie, while he was in seventh and eighth grade. "Over these years I found Father Hopp to be a good friend and someone I could talk to about life. Because of the friendship Father Hopp shared with my family and me, I felt comfortable enough to go over to the rectory on any given day to sit and visit or even just to say hello in passing. We shared many laughs and stories together."
Because the Hoehnes are active in the parish and live near the church, Mrs. Hoehne said, "It just came naturally to befriend our priests." The idea that a priest could molest their son, she said, "was absolutely the furthest thing from our minds."
Hopp would pat the boy on the back or put his arm around him. The pats eventually became hugs and embraces. "To me this seemed normal, similar to what a father would do with his son," Hoehne wrote in the March 16 letter to Pilarczyk. "I had no reason to think these gestures were going to become anything more than that of a good friend. After all, this was a priest, someone I looked up to, trusted and respected."
But one afternoon, after Hoehne stopped by the rectory, Hopp hugged him and asked him if he would "like to go up on the roof and see the town from a different view," he wrote. "I thought this would be kind of cool because I had once before climbed up the church steeple and thought it was awesome to see for miles and miles."
After 30 minutes of chatting on the roof, Hopp asked Hoehne if he would like to go downstairs to the rectory. He led the boy to his bedroom "and motioned for me to sit on the bed while we continued talking. Father Hopp mentioned that I was looking fit and proceeded to pull my shirt up to look at my stomach." Hopp then placed his hand on the boy's stomach, and eventually fondled him. When Hopp took Hoehne's hand and tried to force him to do the same to him, he got up and ran home.
Hoehne said he didn't tell anybody about the incident until unburdening himself to a girlfriend when he was in his 20s. He told his parents on the eve of his wedding five years after that. He said he didn't tell anybody at the time of the abuse because, "I felt like I wouldn't be believed and the embarrassment of it all." Accusing Hopp "wasn't an option when I was 12."
Mrs. Hoehne said her son kept the abuse secret because "he was just so embarrassed and mortified. That is one of the most vulnerable times for a young man."
After the molestation, Hoehne said he did everything he could to avoid Hopp, and was relieved to find out several months later that he was being transferred to St. Denis Church in nearby Versailles.
One Friday evening, months later, his parents gathered the family and announced they were going to visit Hopp in Versailles. Hoehne said he still didn't have the nerve to tell his parents that he didn't want to see Hopp, or why. During the family visit, he stayed away from Hopp as much as he could. But "as we were gathering our things to go home my mom came into the living room (at the rectory) and told me Father Hopp wanted me to spend the night so we could catch up on what I had been doing with my life."
Hoehne said he was speechless and that his mother did not see the fear in his eyes. "As I watched my family drive away all I could do was stare in shock and wonder what was going to happen to me now."
Hopp showed the boy the guest room and left him alone there for the night. But the next morning, Hopp entered the room without the boy's permission. "I was still lying under the covers as he came into the room stating that it was a beautiful morning. He continued to make small talk as he approached the bed. He lay down on the bed next to me and then rolled on top of me pinning me under the covers and immobilizing me with his weight."
After the boy refused to respond, Hopp removed himself and walked out of the room to make breakfast. He drove the boy home later that day without further incident, according to the letter.
Years later, after he had moved out of Fort Loramie to attend acting school in Dayton, Hoehne said he decided to face Hopp. "I wanted for myself to see if he was the same man I remembered," Hoehne said. "And I found my answer."
In his letter, Hoehne said he thought that the only way he could put the matter to rest was to visit Hopp as an adult and see if he had changed. They had dinner and Hoehne said he "felt as though I was talking to the man I knew prior to his advances toward me as a child."
Hoehne then asked if Hopp would hear his confession. That's when Hopp "grabbed my head with both hands and pulled me toward him until our foreheads touched and stated, 'Let's have confession.' "
Hoehne declined, said goodbye and has not seen Hopp or spoken to him since.
"Even now, as a 34-year-old man, I still feel Fr. Hopp scarred me in such a way that, even when writing this letter, I find myself breaking down into tears," Hoehne wrote Pilarczyk.
Hoehne, divorced with no children of his own, said in the interview that he's always been afraid to have normal contact with children because of his molestation by Hopp. "Even being around my nieces and nephews, I have this fear that if I hold them it'll be construed as something sexual," he said. "I don't want people to look at me the way I look at him (Hopp) now."
Hoehne's letter to the archbishop was dated two days after Pilarczyk disclosed to reporters that fewer than five priests have been reinstated to work in the archdiocese following substantiated child abuse allegations. Hopp was not one of those priests.
But Hoehne said neither Pilarczyk's statement nor the nationwide sex scandals involving priests prompted him to write the letter. He said he simply felt that at 34 he was emotionally ready to make a stand.
"I was violated and had to live with this the rest of my life," Hoehne wrote to Pilarczyk. "I realize that many years have passed since these incidents, but my anger, fear, embarrassment and confusion as to why and how this could happen to me held me back from opening up to anyone for almost 12 years."
Hoehne concluded his letter by asking Pilarczyk to forgive him "for taking so long to come forward with this. I hope you can find it in your heart to investigate this man and stop him from ever putting another child through what I have held on to for many years."
At a meeting at Queen of Martyrs Church Monday night, archdiocese officials revealed that Hopp had been placed on notice because of "odd" behavior toward a parish child five years ago.
The news angered many parishioners who said the archdiocese should have warned them or alerted authorities. But others defended the disgraced priest.
Said one: "I don't consider one incident, one fault, something to destroy a person's character for life."
Hoehne said he was appalled at the forgiving attitude.
"What the hell has he done to my character?" he said. "You have no idea what I've been through."
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