Priest sues diocese over “false” sexual abuse allegations

sexual abuse allegations

A priest in Indiana, USA, is suing his diocese for fraud and defamation after he was suspended over what the clergyman claims were false sexual abuse allegations.

Fr James DeOreo claims the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana violated diocesan policy and committed both fraud and defamation when it said, in March 2022, that he had been accused by a cleric of a “possible violation of the sixth commandment with a minor”.

The lawsuit, initiated by DeOreo and also naming vicar general Fr Theodore Dudzinski, centres on claims that the diocese misrepresented allegations against him, leading to his suspension from ministry.

The filing says that in 2021 a parishioner alleged that DeOreo “abused the [parishioner] by encouraging him to fast and engage in other spiritual and ascetic practices” which eventually led the individual to “suffer an eating disorder”.

DeOreo’s filing claims that Dudzinski “[sat] in on [the parishioner’s] therapy sessions” for several months throughout 2021.

“It claims the vicar general allegedly told both the individual and his therapist that the diocese would reopen the investigation against DeOreo if accusations “of a sexual nature” were levelled against him.

The parishioner subsequently “made false allegations that DeOreo had abused him” the filing says.

DeOreo said the diocese undertook a new investigation. However, none of its investigators “found the new allegations to be credible”.

They also found “no evidence to substantiate the allegations”.

Despite this, the diocese allegedly continued to pursue the matter.

They even entered into negotiations with the accuser regarding a potential settlement.

$10 million in damages

DeOreo asserts that the diocese’s public announcement of his suspension misrepresented the situation.

He said it damaged his reputation and caused him to endure prolonged uncertainty and limbo within the church.

The priest’s lawsuit seeks $10 million in damages and calls for a public statement from Bishop Tim Doherty who DeOreo believes could help resolve the matter swiftly.

“If at any moment the bishop proclaims [that] … there is not a single instance or piece of evidence which shows any misconduct or wrongdoing, I will happily enter negotiations with the Bishop and the diocese to bring litigation to an immediate conclusion” DeOreo wrote last week in a letter to supporters.

Diocesan spokeswoman Gabby Hlavek declined to comment on the sexual abuse allegations or the proceedings.

“The diocese cannot discuss pending litigation. Instead, we ask that you please join us in prayer for all those that are affected” she told CNA.


The Pillar

Catholic News Agency


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