Six Sue Philadelphia Archdiocese Claiming Abuse

Associated Press
March 24, 2004

Six people who claimed to have been sexually abused by Pennsylvania clergy filed lawsuits Wednesday against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

The suits, filed in Philadelphia, accuse four priests and a former nun with assaults dating back decades.

The former nun, Eileen Rhoads, 64, of Drexel Hill, was arrested in February on charges that she sexually assaulted a 10-year-old boy in Virginia 33 years ago. She is awaiting trial.

A lawyers for the plaintiffs, Jay Abromowitch, said the archdiocese was aware that clergy were abusing children, but concealed the attacks from the public and from other victims.

Archdiocese spokeswoman Catherine L. Rossi said in a written statement that church officials had not yet seen the lawsuits, but she defended the only accused priest who is still in an active ministry.

Rossi said church officials investigated the allegations against the priest, The Rev. John P. Schmeer, and concluded that the accusations were not credible.

"Father Schmeer denied the allegations and fully cooperated during the investigation," she said. Schmeer remains a pastor at the St. Martin of Tours parish in New Hope.

Information about the allegations was also turned over to the "appropriate authorities," Rossi said.

Of the other clergy named in the suit, the archdiocese said The Rev. Francis X Trauger was removed from his ministry in 2003; The Rev. Joseph P. Gausch died in 1999; The Rev. Ernest A. Durante left the priesthood in 1986; and Rhoads left her job at the Holy Cross Parish Elementary School in Springfield in 1994.

Two of the plaintiffs said they were molested by Rhoads when they were in sixth grade at the school. A third said Schmeer and Durante molested him as a high school student in the 1960s. Two said they were molested by Gausch, and a third said he was abused by Trauger, when they were alter boys.


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