18 Dec 2010

Oklahoma priest faces new accuser after avoiding charges in 2002 for alleged molestation in 1978

Tulsa World - Oklahoma August 13, 2010

Priest accused of molestation decades later


by: BILL SHERMAN World Religion Writer


A Catholic priest in Claremore who was suspended for three months in 2002 on allegations of sexual abuse 25 years earlier now faces a new accuser.

The Rev. Paul Eichhoff was returned to his pastorate at St. Cecilia's Catholic Church in November 2002 after Bishop Edward Slattery's sexual abuse review board found no evidence to support allegations against him of child molestation. No criminal charges were ever filed in the case.

Paul Weber of the Denver area said Thursday at a press conference in front of Holy Family Cathedral downtown that when he was 9, he and two other boys were molested by Eichhoff at St. Mary's Catholic School and the rectory in Brookside on two successive days in 1978.

Weber said his memory of the event remained repressed for years, returning only recently while he was working with a therapist. He identified another of the boys as Kelly Kirk, a classmate.

A Kelly Kirk told the Catholic Diocese of Tulsa in 2002 that Eichhoff had abused him 25 years earlier at St. Mary's.

Eichhoff immediately sued Kirk and his father for slander, and the Kirks countersued for damages from the alleged abuse.

A Tulsa County jury cleared Eichhoff in the lawsuit but also decided that he had not been slandered.

Weber, who is a television producer in Denver, filed a Tulsa police report on the abuse allegations last fall, although the statute of limitations for criminal charges was long past.

Weber said he reported the abuse to the Tulsa diocese, which assigned an investigator. The investigator interviewed Weber for four hours last April.

Weber said he had not heard from the diocese since May.

He said he wanted an independent investigation and an apology from the church.

David Clohessy of the national group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, who arranged the press conference, said Weber was courageously doing all he could do as a responsible adult to protect children and to help others who are "struggling with the lifetime effects of abuse."

He said the church should suspend Eichhoff until it investigates the matter thoroughly.

Slattery said in a statement that the diocese had "referred this allegation to the review board in confidence for a thorough investigation," and that everyone in the diocese is "committed to the safety of children."

A receptionist at St. Cecilia's said Eichhoff was not available and that she did not know when he would be.



Paul Weber (right) discusses his alleged abuse by a priest when he was a boy in 1978 while Jan Marie First holds a poster during a news conference Thursday outside Holy Family Cathedral downtown. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World


This article was found at:

http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=11&articleid=20100813_18_A15_CUTLIN699640

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