Judge Orders Columbus Diocese To Release Documents On Clergy

Dec 11, 2019

A Franklin County judge says the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus must hand over documents on at least 15 clergy members to see if they knew about any alleged sexual abuse.

The order issued Friday comes as part of a 2018 lawsuit filed by a man who says he was molested during the 2002-2003 school year at St. Charles Preparatory School by Monsignor Thomas Bennett, who died in 2008.

Judge Jaiza Page granted the request related to 14 clergy members other than Bennett, ruling it was “reasonably likely to lead to the discovery of relevant evidence.”

The clergy members in question were not identified in the order.

The order applies to any documents on the reporting and investigation of any sexual misconduct by clergy, and any discussions or communications between the diocese, its representatives and clergy relating to clergy interactions with students.

The diocese is also ordered to release the personnel files of those in question.

The judge denied a broader request by the plaintiff seeking any “secret files” on Columbus diocese clergy accused of sexual misconduct dating back to 1950.

The plaintiff, who has remained anonymous, spoke to WOSU and other news outlets in a conference shortly after filing the lawsuit. He says he served detentions supervised by Bennett when he was a freshman at St. Charles in the early 2000s. It was there he alleges Bennett began to leave a lingering hand on his shoulder, which escalated to molestation.

“Happened a couple of times, and there was always a real strong message from him that it wasn’t to be discussed,” the man said. “In a fairly Catholic community, it wasn’t something we talked about.”

The man says he eventually failed out of St. Charles and became addicted to methamphetamines. His lawsuit seeks several million dollars in damages from each defendant.

The judge's ruling came the same week the diocese announced it had added a retired priest to its list of clergy "credibly accused" of sexual abuse of a minor. That made Father David Schilder the 49th person named on a list of "credibly accused" clergy in the Diocese of Columbus.