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10-14-05 Former Coldwater priest defrocked

By Shelley Grieshop

  The Archdiocese of Cincinnati has permanently severed ties with a former Coldwater priest accused of molesting a boy in Beavercreek nearly three decades ago.

  The Rev. Keith Albrecht, 60, was officially defrocked by Vatican officials following 12 years of administrative leave from the priesthood. Defrocking is the most severe penalty handed down by the Catholic church.

  Another area priest, the Rev. David Vincent, pastor of St. Denis Catholic Church in Versailles, was reinstated to active ministry after an investigation by the Archdiocesan Child Protection Review Board revealed insufficient evidence to substantiate abuse claims against him. Vincent was placed on administrative leave in March 2005.

  Two years ago, Albrecht was living in the Cincinnati area in an archdiocese-owned apartment, says Dan Andriacco, director of the archdiocese's office of communications. However, Andriacco said he could not confirm where Albrecht currently lives or if he has a job.

  "He can no longer live on archdiocesan property," Andriacco said Thursday.  While on administrative leave, Albrecht remained on the church's payroll and the archdiocese held some responsibility for his well-being, Andriacco said. That financial connection is now terminated.

  Two years ago, Albrecht was collecting a little over $21,000 per year from the church for living expenses; his food and rent expenses also were paid for by the archdiocese, Andriacco said at that time. More current figures were not available.

  After placed on administrative leave in 1993, Albrecht was not allowed to present himself as a priest, wear the Roman Catholic collar, preside at any sacraments or celebrate Mass. However, he still held an obligation under church law to remain celibate, Andriacco said.

  Albrecht was ordained in 1977 and became head pastor at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Coldwater from 1987 until 1993. In February 1993, he was removed from the parish and placed on administrative leave five days after the archdiocese received allegations that he abused a teenager while pastoring a Beavercreek church from 1977-1981.

  Andriacco confirmed that Albrecht initially conceded to molesting a boy during a counseling session in 1978, but later Albrecht denied the abuse occurred. In an interview with a Dayton newspaper in 2002, Albrecht said he roomed with and sometimes slept with a 17-year-old boy at the rectory in Coldwater during the time he was associate and later head pastor of the church there.

  Albrecht also was accused of misconduct when he took a 12- or 13-year-old boy from Shelby County to New York with another adult male while he was serving at Holy Trinity. Albrecht also admitted to a reporter in 2002 that he had sexual contact with at least four teenage boys, the youngest just 16, and numerous adult males beginning in 1978.

  Mark Vander Laan, an attorney for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, told The Daily Standard this morning he believes no criminal charges have ever been filed against Albrecht.

  "You have to know that the (Hamilton County) prosecutor is well aware of the allegations against him but the problem is the incidents occurred so many years ago," Vander Laan said.

  Vander Laan said no civil suits involving Albrecht are pending in Hamilton County.

  However, at least one civil suit is pending against Albrecht and the archdiocese in Greene County, near Dayton. That lawsuit accuses Albrecht of sexual abuse and seeks more than $1 million in damages. The plaintiff in the case is listed as "John Doe."

  Another civil suit, now closed, was filed against Albrecht in 1997 in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court by Dana Lakin of Dayton. Lakin, who accused Albrecht of sexual molestation, dropped the lawsuit in 1998.

  All court costs and attorney fees in the civil suits were Albrecht's responsibility and not paid for by the church while Albrecht was under administrative leave, Vander Laan added.

  One of Albrecht's alleged victims, believed to be the person who claimed abuse by Albrecht in 1993, has received compensation from the Claim Resolution Fund for Victims of Sexual Abuse.

  Defrockings have became more frequent and expedient in the U.S. following the adoption of a special charter and laws known as the "Dallas Norms" written exclusively by U.S. bishops during a conference in Dallas in 2002, Andriacco said. The Dallas Norms are zero tolerance policies that state a priest who abuses a child must be removed from ministry, Andriacco said.

  Before 2002, cases of abusive priests first went to trial before a church tribunal, followed by an appeal to Rome. Meanwhile, many alleged abusive priests remained on administrative leave for decades.


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