Thursday, May 13, 2004

Convicted priest returns to ministry

Rev. Raymond Larger was suspended last August

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Rev. Raymond Larger
A Cincinnati priest convicted of soliciting sex from an undercover police officer will return to active ministry Monday.

The Rev. Raymond Larger, former pastor of Our Lady of Visitation in Green Township, was suspended last August after a male officer arrested him for soliciting sex in a Dayton, Ohio, park. He pleaded no contest and was convicted of two misdemeanor charges of public indecency.

"I am deeply sorry for my wrongdoing," Larger said in a statement. "I apologize to those I have hurt and who were offended by my behavior, especially my former parishioners, my family and my friends."

More than a dozen archdiocese priests have been suspended during the past two years for misconduct, mostly for sexually abusing children.

While most of those priests remain banned from ministry, church officials said they viewed Larger's case differently because it did not involve children.

They also noted that Larger's psychologist believes "it would be appropriate for Father Larger to return to active ministry." He will live at St. Peter in Chains Cathedral in downtown Cincinnati and will help out at parishes as needed.

A Montgomery County Court magistrate ordered Larger to pay a $100 fine and court costs of $58 and put him on probation for a year.

A national group for victims of sexual abuse challenged the decision Wednesday, complaining that Larger broke his vows and does not deserve another chance.

Dan Frondorf, co-leader of the Cincinnati chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the archdiocese's handling of Larger's case is similar to the way it once handled priests accused of abusing children: After counseling, they were often permitted to return to ministry.

Under the U.S. bishops' new zero-tolerance policy, any priest accused of abusing a child is barred from ministry. But the rule does not necessarily apply if the sexual misconduct involved adults, as in Larger's case.

Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk said he expects all priests to follow church rules on celibacy.

But he also said church teachings "call for healing and forgiveness."


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