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Priests' Records Available

May 11, 2002 | The Morning Call

The Allentown Catholic Diocese has opened its files on six dismissed priests for review by the district attorneys in the five counties it covers, a diocesan spokesman said Friday.

The church's action came as the top prosecutors in Lehigh and Schuylkill counties said they've received new allegations of sexual abuse from four people, including one who said the abuse happened in 1952.

Diocesan spokesman Matt Kerr said the district attorneys from Lehigh, Northampton, Schuylkill, Carbon and Berks counties can review the files at the office of diocesan lawyer Thomas F. Traud in Allentown.

''It will be up to the attorneys to decide when they will look at the files,'' Kerr said. ''Whatever they asked for, we are giving them.''

Schuylkill County District Attorney Frank Cori said he will review what is offered. He also plans to ask for the files on the newly accused priests if they are not among the six dismissed since 2000 over allegations they sexually abused minors.

''We will ask for everything that we are legally entitled to from them,'' he said. ''We want to be able to go back to our constituents and be able to tell them we have conducted the broadest investigation possible.''

Cori said three people contacted him to report they were abused. One person called his office last week, another on Wednesday and a third on Thursday.

''One allegedly occurred in 1952 and one was in the late 1970s,'' Cori said. ''The third person has not been interviewed yet.''

Cori would not give further details of the complaints.

A new allegation was reported Thursday to Lehigh County District Attorney James B. Martin. The person who called said the abuse occurred at least 30 years ago, Martin said.

In other calls he has received, Martin said, one person wouldn't give him the name of the allegedly abusive priest and another said the abuse occurred in Philadelphia.

Martin did not say when he planned to review the files.

Schuylkill's Cori said he expects to review them late next week.

''I'd like to get down there as soon as possible,'' he said.

Carbon County District Attorney Gary Dobias was not in his office Friday, and efforts to reach him for comment were unsuccessful. But Dobias said this week he has received no reports of abuse.

Berks County District Attorney Mark Baldwin did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Northampton County District Attorney John M. Morganelli said he plans to review the files Tuesday. Morganelli also said he might ask the diocese for files on more than six priests.

He has said three people have contacted his office with the names of priests who allegedly abused them in Northampton County, and he doesn't know yet if those priests are among the six dismissed.

Diocesan lawyers and Bishop Edward P. Cullen, head of the diocese, promised to make the files available after they met last week with the five district attorneys.

Cullen announced in February he had dismissed four priests accused of molesting children more than 20 years ago and that a fifth had been dismissed in 2000.

The bishop has not revealed their identities. But in April he dismissed Monsignor William E. Jones of Pottsville over an accusation of sexual misconduct 20 years ago. Cullen identified Jones in a letter to parishioners at St. Patrick Church.

Also in April, a priest was suspended over a 1995 allegation that the diocese reported to the state Department of Public Welfare for investigation.

The local cases surfaced amid the turmoil that resulted from Boston Cardinal Bernard Law's admission in January that he moved a known pedophile priest from parish to parish. Since then, more than 100 priests have been dismissed from dioceses nationwide.

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