Diocese: We Did Our Jobs

By Bob Scott
Journal and Courier (Lafayette, IN)
November 22, 2002

The Catholic Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana insists that it properly investigated sexual abuse allegations by a woman against a Benton County priest that she claimed happened when she was a girl.

In a Journal and Courier article last week about reaction to sexual abuse policy revisions approved by U.S. Catholic bishops, Therese Byerly of Indianapolis contended that her uncle, the Rev. Donald Eder, fondled her breasts a half-dozen times from ages 11 to 13. Eder has been pastor of St. Patrick Church in Oxford since 1998. Before that, he was pastor at St. Louis de Montfort Church in Fishers for 13 years.

Byerly contended in the article that she didn't receive justice from the diocese when she twice brought her claims before the bishop. She said the bishop didn't take into account a 1997 sexual harassment lawsuit brought against Eder by female workers at St. Louis de Montfort. The diocese settled the lawsuit.

"Charges of this nature are always given the most immediate and careful attention they deserve," Thomas A. Russell, diocesan director of communications, said in a written statement.

And Russell said protocols were followed correctly in the "Ms. B" case, including a review by a diocesan review board composed mostly of lay people. The majority of the review board is not employed by the Catholic Church.

"You report the assertion by Ms. B that 'her claim was not acted upon' in 1995 and her assertion that, in July of this year, 'the bishop in Lafayette didn't do a good job of reviewing the information,' Russell's statement to the newspaper said.

"For the record, Ms. B twice submitted her allegations to the diocese, in 1995 and again in July. Both times, they were thoroughly investigated and considered by the Diocesan Review Board, following the diocesan 'Protocol for Responding to Allegations of Sexual Misconduct,' and by Bishop William L. Higi.

"Far from 'not acting on' or 'not doing a good job of reviewing the information,' on both occasions, after thorough consideration, the charges were determined to be without merit."

Russell used the words "Ms. B" in the letter to the newspaper because of the diocesan protocols on confidentiality. Unless she gives the diocesan officials written permission, they cannot reveal her name or details about her case. She went public with the case last week in the Indianapolis Star and the Journal and Courier.

Eder, who is battling cancer, is helping parishioners build a house in Mexico this week and could not be reached for comment. The church group is expected to return this weekend.

Two nonparishioners said Eder has been a friend of the St. Ann soup kitchen on Wabash Avenue.

Lafayette's Harriet Kamp, a 17-year volunteer at the soup kitchen, said Eder regularly brings in paper grocery sacks, helping the kitchen in its effort to distribute food in the sacks to needy people.

"A couple of years ago, I sat with Father Eder at an appreciation dinner for the soup kitchen volunteers," Kamp said. "I didn't really know him at all. But Father Mike (McKinley), the St. Ann pastor, said if it wasn't for Father Eder, we wouldn't have two sacks."

And Jan Hayden, assistant cook at the soup kitchen, said she was grateful to Eder.

"About once a month, he shows up with a pickup truck filled with grocery sacks," she said. "That is very nice of him and St. Patrick's parishioners."


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