Suit Claims Local Priest Impregnated Teen in 1965

By Dan Horn
Cincinnati Enquirer
December 2, 2004

Says church pressured her to give away baby

A Cincinnati woman claimed Wednesday that the Archdiocese of Cincinnati coerced her into putting her baby girl up for adoption nearly 40 years ago to protect the priest who got her pregnant when she was 16.

The woman, who has not been identified, accused the archdiocese of fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress in a lawsuit filed in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.

She says the priest, Norman Heil, had sex with her several times in 1965 while she was a student at Regina High School in Norwood.

The lawsuit claims Heil, who left the priesthood in 1966 and died in 1988, sometimes heard the girl's confessions and would absolve her of her sins, including the sin of having sex with him.

When she became pregnant a few months into their relationship, the suit claims, church officials arranged for her to leave school and become a resident at a private Catholic institution that served pregnant teens.

Heil and others affiliated with the church then pressured the girl to give up the child and to remain silent about the baby's father, the suit states.

Archdiocese spokesman Dan Andriacco said church officials had not seen the lawsuit Wednesday and could not comment on the allegations.

He said Heil left the archdiocese in 1966 to work as a priest in Bismarck, N.D., and left the priesthood a short time later.

Church records show no complaints against Heil in the 1960s, Andriacco said. He said the church first learned of this allegation last year, when a lawyer contacted the archdiocese about an unidentified woman who claimed a priest fathered her child in 1965.

The woman's current lawyer, Marc Mezibov, said his client recently spoke to her daughter for the first time and may meet with her. He said her experience in 1965 forced her to seek psychological counseling.

"She is fraught with anxiety," Mezibov said. "This has been a very difficult situation for her."

According to the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, the woman did not want to give up her child but agreed to do so under heavy pressure from Heil and a nun.

The suit claims the nun wrote to the girl while she was pregnant, telling her the pregnancy was her fault and she should "suffer in silence." The suit also claims the nun warned her the church would not baptize her child unless she put the baby up for adoption.

In one letter, the lawsuit claims, the nun told the girl "this child must never, under any condition, learn of its parentage."

Although the case dates back nearly four decades, Mezibov said he believes the statute of limitations does not rule it out. The statute, which requires lawsuits to be filed within a few years of the offense, has resulted in the dismissal of several other sexual misconduct lawsuits against priests and the church.

Mezibov said the statute should not apply in this case because the archdiocese's alleged misconduct - the concealment of the father - continues to this day.


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