Friday, October 3, 2003

21 men join lawsuit against accused priest



By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Twenty-one men joined a lawsuit Thursday that accuses a Cincinnati priest of molesting them when they were children.

The suit claims that Rev. David Kelley sexually abused boys throughout the 1970s and 1980s even though his superiors at the Archdiocese of Cincinnati had received warnings about his behavior.

The new allegations mean that 26 men now claim Kelley abused them when they were children and make the lawsuit against Kelley, the archdiocese and Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk the largest of its kind in Greater Cincinnati since the priest abuse scandal erupted last year.

More than 50 people now have sued the archdiocese this year, claiming that priests abused them as children during the past 40 years.

Church officials have acknowledged that Kelley, who was placed on administrative leave last month, was sent to a New Mexico treatment facility in 1987 for counseling related to alcoholism and sexual issues.

But they say the only specific claim of abuse against the priest came in 1994, when a man told them Kelley fondled him when he was a teenager in the 1970s.

Although Kelley is now suspended, he remained in ministry for years because of an archdiocese policy that allowed priests to keep their jobs if they agreed to undergo counseling and to stay away from children.

The lawsuit claims the archdiocese protected abusive priests, attempted to conceal their offenses and sacrificed the safety of children in order to avoid negative publicity.

Church officials deny they hid anything and say they acted on the best information available at the time. Church spokesman Dan Andriacco said the archdiocese has no record of specific allegations against Kelley beyond the 1994 complaint.

"The number of new allegations is disturbing," Andriacco said. "The archdiocese is sorry that David Kelley or any priest abused anyone."

Kelley's lawyer, Edward McTigue, said only, "We'll file the appropriate response when the time comes."

The lawsuit seeks $1 million on behalf of each of Kelley's accusers.

Janice Morse contributed to this report. E-mail dhorn@enquirer.com.




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