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YOUNGSTOWN Couple files suit against priest, diocese



Published: Fri, November 16, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The suit accuses the priest of engaging in sexual and ethical misconduct.

YOUNGSTOWN -- A local woman who says she was groped by a Catholic priest during a marriage counseling session is seeking more than $3 million in damages from the priest.

Mary Ann Lordi and Anthony Lordi of Youngstown filed the lawsuit Thursday in Stark County Common Pleas Court against the Rev. Dennis Witt and the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown.

Anthony Lordi is Mrs. Lordi's husband. Father Witt serves as a priest at St. Christine Church in Youngstown.

The suit was filed in Stark County because Father Witt maintains a residence in North Canton, said Atty. Mark S. Colucci, who represents the Lordis.

The suit says Mrs. Lordi was referred to Father Witt for counseling services by someone within the diocese. During the course of the counseling, Witt engaged in "impermissible touching" of Mrs. Lordi, the suit says.

It also alleges that Witt misrepresented himself as a licensed counselor, medical doctor, psychiatrist and psychologist.

Response: In a prepared statement released today, Bishop Thomas Tobin said he was surprised by the lawsuit. He said diocese officials investigated the Lordis complaints when they were raised and found them to be unsubstantiated.

"The Diocese of Youngstown is eager to have the legal process follow its regular course, and will vigorously defend itself against the allegations which, in our judgment, remain unsubstantiated," he said.

Father Witt denies the allegations, according to the bishop.

Tough decision: Colucci said the decision to sue Father Witt and the diocese was extremely difficult for Mrs. Lordi because she is extremely active in the church.

"But in the end, the facts and law warranted that a jury decide this case," Colucci said.




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