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Victims blame bishop for lack of resolution



Published: Thu, July 21, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The three women say that no apology or disclosure was given as promised.

CLEVELAND (AP) -- A day after testifying in a sex abuse-related case, Bishop Anthony Pilla was criticized by three women who say he broke promises he made after they accused a former priest of abusing them 40 years ago.

They said Pilla and the diocese did not apologize and make disclosures about the priest who they say abused them.

The timing of their comments on a sidewalk outside of the diocese headquarters at St. John Cathedral was a coincidence to Pilla's testimony Tuesday in a civil case, said Jeff Anderson, a St. Paul, Minn.-based lawyer for the women. He said they planned to go public about a month ago and picked the day and location without realizing the bishop was involved in another sex abuse case requiring his testimony.

Ignored settlement

Anderson said the women are among five he represented in a private mediation hearing that resulted in a settlement in 2003.

He and the women would not disclose how much money was involved, but Anderson said a series of letters after the settlement committed Pilla and the diocese to an apology to the victims, full disclosure about the priest, participation in a healing Mass and a chance for the victims to help the diocese with abuse prevention.

Anderson and the women said the diocese did not follow through on any of those commitments.

"The goal of these women was healing, apologies and acknowledgment. The priority was not money," Anderson said.

Diocese spokesman Bob Tayak urged the women to be more patient.

He also confirmed Anderson's allegation that the priest who was the subject of the complaints was the Rev. John Jacoby, who left the priesthood in 1984. He taught at St. Mary's in Akron in 1964 and 1965. He has not been convicted of any crime.

"Matters related to this mediation are still being addressed," Tayak said on Wednesday. "Patience on behalf of the parties involved is appreciated with the realization that these matters can take some time. The Diocese of Cleveland is committed to outreach to victims of sexual abuse and education awareness and encourages prayer for all victims of sexual abuse."

Waiting for action

Colleen Hager, 57, of Charlotte, N.C., and Terri Heinzen, 56, of Russellville, Ark., said that they were high school girls when they were abused separately by the priest, who told them not to say anything. The priest was their religion teacher.

"The problem with the church and abuse I truly believe is a spiritual problem," Heinzen said. "They do not treat you morally or ethically and gloss over what a spiritual man would do. My name is in a letter to the bishop, and he's had this letter for one year. I asked for an apology and no apology came."

The two were joined by Sharon Barrett, 58, of Akron, who said the same priest abused her in a car at a drive-in movie when she was a teenager.

The women are married and had other last names in high school.

Jacoby, reached by telephone at his home in Seminole, Fla., would not comment on the allegations. He said any response would have to come from his lawyer, but he would not disclose his lawyer's name.

He confirmed that he resigned from the priesthood, but would not offer any more information.

A national sex abuse scandal that erupted in 2002 was sparked by revelations that many bishops moved guilty priests among parish assignments without warning parents or police.

On Tuesday, Pilla testified in a defamation case against the Cleveland diocese that he twice reassigned a priest who allegedly sexually assaulted a child. That lawsuit was filed by alleged victim Christopher Kodger and his parents. They accuse the diocese of falsely stating in 2002 that they supported the Rev. James Mulica's reassignment.




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