Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Fr. Hopp out of ministry

Allegations preclude a return to the pulpit

By Dan Horn, dhorn@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Dayton priest accused of sexually abusing a child will never work in a public ministry again, church officials say.

        The decision was announced Monday, just days after the Archdiocese of Cincinnati confirmed an allegation that the Rev. Thomas Hopp had sexually abused a child more than 20 years ago.

        Authorities said Father Hopp's accuser, now in his 30s and living in Florida, claims the abuse occurred while the priest was assigned to St. Michael's Church in Ft. Loramie, about 45 miles north of Dayton.

        Although other accused priests have continued to serve in ministries, church officials say recent sexual abuse scandals nationwide make that impossible in Father Hopp's case.

        “In the current environment, it's not realistic,” said archdiocese spokesman Dan Andriacco. “He's never going to be returned to ministry.”

        Law enforcement officials, including those who have been critical of the archdiocese, applauded the decision to suspend Father Hopp and immediately contact authorities.

        Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen said the same kind of quick action should have been taken years ago with other abuse allegations. He said his investigation into several old allegations has been stymied by the church's reluctance to share information.

        “This is the right thing to do,” Mr. Allen said of the archdiocese's handling of the case.

        Mr. Andriacco said Father Hopp's case is different than those being investigated by Mr. Allen because this time the victim told church officials they could notify authorities.

        In the other cases, Mr. Andriacco said, the victims asked that their complaints remain confidential.

        He said the allegation against Father Hopp, 61, was made in a letter to the archdiocese a few weeks ago. When Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk confronted the priest, he admitted the accusation was “substantially true,” Mr. Andriacco said.

        Shelby County Prosecutor Jim Stevenson said the archdiocese notified him late last week that the incident may have occurred in his jurisdiction.

        “We're going to review it, investigate it and decide what, if anything, can be done,” he said.

        It's unclear whether criminal charges could be filed because of the statute of limitations.

        Church officials announced Father Hopp's resignation Sunday to parishioners at Queen of Martyrs Church near Dayton, where he has served for seven years.

        Father Hopp was reassigned to St. Peter & Paul parish in Reading. Mr. Andriacco described the assignment as temporary and said Father Hopp has no role at the church.

        Those who know Father Hopp were stunned by the news.

        “It's just one of those things that hits you like a ton of bricks,” said the Rev. Dennis Jaspers, who has known Father Hopp since his days at the seminary in the 1960s.

        Parishioners at the Dayton church met with church officials Monday night to discuss Father Hopp's resignation.


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