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Published: Thursday, 1/26/2006

Ohio's top court weighs time limits in clergy sex-abuse suits


COLUMBUS - The Ohio Supreme Court yesterday took up a case that the Roman Catholic Church contends could throw open court doors to numerous lawsuits accusing the church of conspiring to cover up child sex abuse at the hands of priests.

An unidentified man who accused a priest of abusing him in the 1980s is asking the court to find that the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit in the case has not expired because the Archdiocese of Cincinnati was guilty of a pattern of corruption.

The church maintains the time limit expired in 1988, two years after the victim turned 18.

"What the victim in this case saw was the church continuing to hold out Father [Thomas] Hopp as a chaste, pure individual ," said Konrad Kircher, attorney for the alleged victim identified as "John Doe."

John Doe sued in 2004 in Shelby County. The case was dismissed on the grounds that the statute of limitations had expired. But the 3rd District Court of Appeals overturned the decision, determining that the clock did not start ticking until the victim became aware the church had known such abuse was occurring and was silent.

The archdiocese appealed to the Supreme Court, knowing a decision favoring John Doe's case could affect 63 cases in the pipeline across the state.

Teresa Bombrys of Columbus, who filed suit against former priest Chet Warren and the Oblates of St. Francis De Sales in Toledo, believes her case is one of those that could move forward if John Doe wins.

She was in her late 30s when she sued, saying she had repressed the painful memories until then. She has already settled with the Diocese of Toledo.

- Jim Provance

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