Two File Suit over Alleged Abuse
Men Say Lorain Priest Molested Them As Boys

By Catherine Gabe and David Briggs
Plain Dealer [Cleveland, Ohio]
June 25, 2002

Elyria - Two former members of "The Little Martins," a Hispanic church traveling quartet, yesterday accused their priest of sexually molesting them more than three decades ago.

Benigno Pacheco II, and an unnamed plaintiff sued the Cleveland Catholic Diocese and the Rev. Martin Van Trieste, former priest of Sacred Heart Chapel Parish in Lorain. Their suit said Van Trieste misused his authority to sexually abuse Pacheco and another boy from 1961 to 70, when they were between 6 and 12 years old.

This is the third lawsuit alleging sexual abuse of minors against Cleveland-area churches in less than a week. Last week, three men sued a Byzantine Catholic priest in Bedford, and a woman accused a Cleveland priest of improperly touching 40 children.

Van Trieste, now 87, is from a religious missionary order and not under the direct disciplinary supervision of Bishop Anthony Pilla.

"Our attorneys have to review it," said diocese spokesman Robert Tayek.

William Crosby, Pacheco's attorney, said it is unlikely Pacheco can pursue criminal charges because of the time that has transpired. The suit said the diocese "habitually concealed . . . reports of sexual abuse" by Van Trieste.

"We are going to stop this cover-up," Crosby said. A third member of the quartet is planning to join the suit, he said.

Van Trieste used to take the boys to places like Euclid Beach and asked them to refer to him as "Uncle Martin," Pacheco said.

Pacheco, 48, said Van Trieste sexually molested him once in a Cleveland motel. "I've never forgotten it," he said.

After the incident, he became angry and sullen. Pacheco vandalized the parish, throwing out the holy water and toppling the altar. He was arrested for stealing cars. Drugs and alcohol became a way of life.

Today, Pacheco is sober 10 years. Lingering anger, fear and resentment affected his ability to hold a job, he said. Pacheco used to teach tennis and now does house painting. He has been in therapy for a year.

Van Trieste was with the Trinitarians, Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity. Sacred Heart Chapel was then involved in recruiting Puerto Rican families to Lorain to work in steel mills and other industries.

Pacheco said Van Trieste was well respected among the Hispanic community. A pavilion outside the church bears Van Trieste's name, "Casa de Padre Martin."

Van Trieste is in a Maryland nursing home, where he is progressively getting worse with dementia, said the Rev. Austin Walsh, major superior of the order in Arlington, Va.

"He's really no danger to children now," Walsh said.

For Pacheco, the suit represented a "day of freedom."

"Freedom from the past, the abuse and the secretiveness," he said.


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