Saturday, March 16, 2002

Sex abuse cases not new locally

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Sex abuse allegations involving Tristate priests have surfaced several times in the past decade.

        In one of the most notable cases, the Rev. Earl Bierman, a Northern Kentucky priest, received a 20-year prison sentence in 1993 after pleading guilty to 25 molestation charges involving six adolescent boys in the 1960s and '70s.

Earl Bierman
Earl Bierman
        The incidents occurred while Father Bierman served as a priest, counselor and teacher at Covington Latin School, Newport Catholic High School and St. Patrick School in Maysville.

        Church records later released for a civil trial showed that there were dozens of teen-age victims. The 71-year-old ex-priest was denied shock probation in September 2000 and is scheduled for release from the Kentucky State Reformatory at LaGrange in 2006.

        In 1995, a jury awarded $750,000 to one victim and told the Diocese of Covington it was more responsible for the abuse than Father Bierman himself.

        In other cases:

        • George Cooley, the former associate pastor at Guardian Angels Church in Mount Washington, was defrocked after he pleaded guilty in 1991 to molesting four boys. Lawsuits allege he molested at least a dozen, as far back as 1977. After an initial 90-day sentence, he was returned to prison in 1994 for 15 months for stalking one of his former child victims. He was arrested and sentenced to house arrest and three years' probation in 1996 for soliciting oral sex and a massage for $20 from a 19-year-old police decoy acting as a male prostitute.

        • In 1994, Ellis N. Harsham resigned from the priesthood after Elder High School graduate Steven Cook accused him and the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin in a $10 million federal lawsuit of sexually abusing him in the 1970s. The Archdiocese of Cincinnati settled Mr. Cook's claim against Mr. Harsham, a former teacher at St. Gregory Seminary in Mount Washington, after Mr. Cook recanted his accusations against Cardinal Bernardin.

        • The Diocese of Covington settled for an undisclosed amount in a 1994 civil case involving a Burlington woman who claimed the Rev. Jack Goeke sexually abused her while she was seeing him for marital counseling in 1989. Father Goeke, former pastor of St. Henry Church in Erlanger, initially was charged with indecent and immoral practices, but a judge dismissed the felonies after the woman said she no longer wanted to pursue the criminal case.

        • The Rev. Kenneth Schoettmer remains on administrative leave from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati after admitting to parishioners at Queen of Peace Catholic Church last June that he had three sexual encounters with teen-age boys between 1984 and 1999. Butler County authorities said the cases were too old to prosecute under Ohio law.

Related stories:
Prosecutors ask what church hid
Catholics have little sympathy for abuse
Covington diocese has written guidelines
Pamphlet sets rules for prevention, response

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