Priest Replies to Rape Charge
Church Should Take Case of Woman Who Claims Abuse in 1970s, Accused Cleric Says
By Vic Ryckaert
July 31, 2003
A Roman Catholic priest has responded to a lawsuit alleging he sexually assaulted a child about 30 years ago.
In documents filed Tuesday in Marion Superior Court, the Rev. Germain Belen argues, among his defenses, that too much time has passed and the matter should be handled by the church rather than the state.
The filing came in response to a California woman's lawsuit saying he molested her in a Terre Haute church and several other locations.
At the time of the alleged attacks, Belen was the pastor of St. Benedict Catholic Church in Terre Haute. The parish is part of the Indianapolis Archdiocese.
Gretchen Mayerhofer alleges that Belen raped her in the 1970s, when she was 5 to 10 years old. She said her life struggles — including failed relationships, eating disorders and other emotional problems — were caused by Belen's abuse.
Lawyers for Belen and Mayerhofer could not be reached for comment.
Other defendants named in the lawsuit are the Franciscan Order province to which Belen belongs — the Province of Our Lady of Consolation — and the head of the province, the Rev. Peter Damian Massengill.
Mayerhofer remains active in the Catholic faith and serves on an outreach committee for victims of sexual abuse in the Sacramento, Calif., diocese.
Mayerhofer described her struggles in a poem published in the Jan. 21 edition of The Valley Catholic, a newspaper published by the San Jose diocese.
Belen was pastor of St. Benedict from September 1968 to February 1976, according to a church spokesman.
Church officials said Belen, now 82, retired in 2001 after suffering a stroke. He now lives in the infirmary of the Franciscan friary in Mount St. Francis, a southern Indiana community near New Albany.
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