Kentucky man accusing former Syracuse diocese priest of sexual abuse

The Post-Standard, New York/May 22, 2011

Syracuse, New York - A Kentucky man plans Monday to publicly accuse the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse of not helping him recover from being sexually abused by a diocese priest 30 years ago at a West Virginia farm.

He is expected to accuse former priest David Pichette of fondling him and making other sexual advances during a 1981 encounter at Nazareth Farm, said the Rev. Robert M. Hoatson, who founded a non-profit for victims of clergy abuse.

The accuser will be identified during a 1:30 p.m. event in front of the diocese office at 240 E. Onondaga St., Hoatson said.

The diocese refuses to help the victim recover from the abuse, despite the fact a diocese investigator found him to be credible, Hoatson asserted. Part of the mission of Hoatson's group, Road to Recovery, is to stand "shoulder to shoulder" with abuse victims when they make their stories public.

"The only thing the church seems to understand is negative publicity," Hoatson said. "If we can shame them into doing the right thing, we have to do that."

Diocese spokeswoman Danielle Cummings said she could not comment on this specific case, but rejected notions that the diocese was doing nothing. She said that the diocese investigates and provides help for victims of sexual abuse, including a victim assistance coordinator, and assists with counseling and other needs.

She noted that Pichette has not been a priest "for some time." She said that limits what the diocese can do.

"The diocese no longer has any authority over an individual who is dismissed from the clerical state or has completed the laicization process," she said.

Pichette, who is about 70 and living in North Miami Beach, did not respond Sunday evening to requests for comment.

The Kentucky man gave a statement to the diocese in January, and decided to make his abuse public after becoming frustrated with the diocese, Hoatson said. The man's lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian, did not return calls seeking comment Sunday night.

In the statement, which Hoatson read over the phone, the Kentucky man claims he was abused when he was a teen-ager while visiting Nazareth Farm, which the Syracuse diocese co-founded in 1979.

Teens from across the country volunteer at the Center Point, W.Va., retreat whose mission is to help poor people build housing.

In his statement, the man accused Pichette of fondling him on two occasions - one time waking him up at night and another time while he was changing - inside a rustic barn where men and boys slept. In other occasions, the man says Pichette talked about his private parts and asked him to pull down his pants while bathing in a river, Hoatson said.

The man's statement was given Jan. 10 in Boston to diocese investigator, former Onondaga County Sheriff's Deputy Robert J. Owens, of AMRIC Associates, based in East Syracuse, Hoatson said.

Hoatson, who has sued Roman Catholic dioceses, claiming he was suspended as a priest because he exposed clergy sex abuse, said he knows of no other charges of abuse involving Pichette or Nazareth Farm.

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