2 Columbus Priests Defrocked by Vatican

By Dennis M. Mahoney
Columbus Dispatch
February 19, 2005

Two Roman Catholic priests who were barred from local ministry in 2002 because of sex-abuse allegations have been removed from the priesthood.

The Vatican told the Diocese of Columbus that it has approved laicization for Martin Weithman and Michael Ellifritz, said Robin Miller, diocesan spokeswoman.

Bishop James A. Griffin, who retired last year, also asked that the Vatican defrock former Monsignor Joseph Fete. That request is pending in Rome, she said.

Weithman was removed as pastor of Seton parish in Pickerington by then-Bishop James A. Griffin after he was accused of molesting a teenage boy, Dennis Palmer, in the late 1980s. The diocese paid Palmer $115,000 after he threatened to sue.

Although he maintained his innocence, Weithman reached a settlement with the diocese in 2004 in which he agreed to ask to be defrocked. The diocese and Weithman's attorney refuse to release details of the settlement.

Ellifritz admitted having "improper contact" with a minor in the early 1980s. In his last 10 years as a priest, he was a chaplain at Riverside Methodist Hospital and was living at St. Mary Magdalene Parish on the West Side. The diocese said he retired in 2002 for health reasons.

Fete admitted molesting a teenage boy in the late 1970s while an associate pastor at St. Joseph Cathedral. In 1999, the victim threatened to sue, and the diocese agreed to a financial settlement, which both sides refused to reveal.

Griffin later named Fete pastor of St. Margaret of Cortona parish on the West Side but removed him in April 2002.

Miller said the diocese will not disclose the whereabouts of the three.


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