Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Parish's 3rd priest accused of abuse

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A former student at Our Lady of Victory school in Delhi Township claimed in a lawsuit Monday that a parish priest sexually abused him from 1986 to 1991.

The allegation against the Rev. Thomas Feldhaus makes him the third priest with ties to Our Lady of Victory to face child-abuse accusations in the past two years.

Feldhaus and the other two priests, Lawrence Strittmatter and David Kelley, have been suspended from ministry because of sexual abuse allegations. Feldhaus was suspended last year because of an allegation involving a boy from another parish.

All three priests served together at Our Lady of Victory in the mid-1980s, a situation that has some parishioners questioning why three of the 14 Greater Cincinnati priests suspended since 2002 worked at their church.

"It's a horrible coincidence," said Dan Andriacco, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. "The tragedy of clerical child abuse has laid a heavy burden on all Catholics, but undeniably some areas seem to have been disproportionately affected."

He said several Our Lady of Victory parishioners have raised their concerns in recent months with the archdiocese.

Mason lawyer Konrad Kircher, who filed the lawsuit Monday in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court on behalf of the unnamed man, said housing the three priests together put children at greater risk.

"Here he was with these other notorious pedophiles," Kircher said of Feldhaus. "Being in that environment, (child abuse) is condoned."

Kircher also represents about 60 other men who have sued Strittmatter and Kelley, claiming that they were abused in the 1970s and 1980s.

Kelley was sent to a treatment facility in 1987 for alcoholism and "sexual issues," and Strittmatter was removed from Our Lady of Victory and sent for treatment in 1988 after he was accused of abuse.

Church officials have said they were not aware of abuse allegations against Feldhaus until last year. Feldhaus could not be reached Monday.

Andriacco said the allegations against all three priests were not known to church officials when they were assigned to Our Lady of Victory.

He said church leaders did not intentionally assign known abusers to work together.


E-mail dhorn@enquirer.com

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