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Duval Man Claims Priest Abuse

May 4, 2002 | The Florida Times-Union

A man now living in Jacksonville says his sexual molestation by a Catholic priest in his native Ohio 22 years ago has left him scarred to the point that he is apprehensive about being around his own nieces and nephews.

David J. Hoehne, 34, was just a 12-year-old altar boy at St. Michael Catholic Church close to his home in Fort Loramie, Ohio, when he says he was molested by his parish priest, the Rev. Thomas Hopp, according to a story in yesterday's Dayton (Ohio) Daily News.

Hoehne wrote a five-page letter March 16 to Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, detailing alleged encounters with Hopp, now 61.

Hopp resigned his pastorate in Dayton on April 24 after being confronted with the allegations. He has been placed on paid leave in an undisclosed location and may not identify himself as a priest, wear a Roman collar or administer the sacraments. He also is to receive a psychological evaluation.

Shelby County (Ohio) Prosecutor Jim Stevenson said he wrote to Hoehne explaining that the statute of limitations on prosecuting Hopp had expired and urged Hoehne to consider other legal and administrative options.

Hoehne told the newspaper he had contacted a lawyer.

In his letter, Hoehne said he was in the seventh and eighth grades when his family developed a friendship with Hopp.

The family's ties with the priest made Hoehne feel comfortable enough with Hopp that he would visit the rectory at any time.

The priest would pat the boy on the back or put his arm around him. Eventually, Hoehne said, the pats became hugs and embraces.

"To me, this seemed normal, similar to what a father would do with his son," Hoehne wrote in the letter to the archbishop. "I had no reason to think these gestures were going to become anything more than that of a good friend. After all, this was a priest, someone I looked up to, trusted and respected."

But one afternoon when the boy stopped by the rectory, the priest led the boy to his bedroom, where he was fondled before he got up and ran home, Hoehne said.

Hoehne said he didn't tell anyone about it at the time because he felt he wouldn't be believed and it would be embarrassing. He tried to avoid Hopp and, several months later, the priest was transferred to a church in nearby Versailles, Ohio.

Months later, his parents announced a family visit to Hopp in Versailles. Hoehne said that, at the end of the visit, his mother announced the priest wanted the boy to spend the night so he could catch up on what had been happening in the boy's life.

"As I watched my family drive away, all I could do was stare in shock and wonder what was going to happen to me now," Hoehne wrote.

Hopp showed him to the guest room and left him alone, he wrote. But the next morning, the priest entered the room uninvited, rolled on top of him and pinned him to the bed, Hoehne wrote, adding that, after he refused to respond, the priest went to make breakfast.

Hoehne said that years later, when he was in Dayton, Ohio, attending acting school, he decided to face Hopp.

The two met for dinner and Hoehne said he felt he was talking to the man he knew before the abuse had happened. He asked Hopp if he would hear his confession. The priest grabbed his head with both hands and pulled him toward him until their foreheads were touching.

"Let's have confession," Hoehne said the priest said. Hoehne said he declined and left. He has had no contact with Hopp since.

Divorced and with no children of his own, Hoehne said he's always afraid of contact with children because of his molestation by the priest. "Even being around my nieces and nephews, I have this fear that if I hold them it'll be construed as something sexual. I don't want people to look at me the way I look at Hopp."

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