For now, the Rev. Raymond Bartnikowski sits and waits, his future hanging in the balance.
"He is just devastated. He is taking this very hard. His whole life is being a priest," his lawyer James Hinton said.
Bartnikowski, the pastor at St. Victor's Roman Catholic Church in Richfield, was put on administrative leave Easter week because of an allegation he abused a girl in 1967.
Since then, two more women have come forward to say Bartnikowski spanked them as punishment during the '60s.
"During that time, spanking was not illegal and it was considered proper discipline," Hinton said.
And even though one of the woman said Bartnikowski pulled down her underpants during the spanking, that doesn't constitute sexual behavior, Hinton said.
"This is not a sexual issue," Hinton said.
What is an issue, he said, is a therapist violating the confidentiality of a client.
"My information is that the woman who said she was abused in 1967 while a member of St. Monica's in Garfield Heights told a private therapist. That therapist contacted Children and Family Services of Cuyahoga County without her permission," Hinton said.
Hinton, an Akron attorney and a member of St. Victor's Parish, declined to name the therapist.
"I think the woman has a legal recourse to sue the therapist. My information is that she did not want to go public and did not expect it would become public," Hinton said.
The Diocese of Cleveland forwarded a letter it received Holy Thursday from Family Services to the Garfield Heights Police Department, diocese spokesperson Robert Tayek said last week.
Since the information passed through several sources before reaching the police department, its credibility is compromised, Hinton said.
"You have double hearsay. And when you have one person telling a story to another person who tells the story to another person you have too much of a chance that the information is incorrect," Hinton said.
The letter said Bartnikowski, 65, committed "a single act of sexual abuse of a minor in 1967," Tayek said.
"The content of the letter by the therapist attributes the date and age of the patient," Hinton said. Bartnikowski, who came to St. Victor from St. Wenceslas in Maple Heights, was not a priest at St. Monica's in 1967, when the alleged abuse took place, Tayek said.
Between 1963 and 1969, Bartnikowski was assigned to St. Mary of Czestochowa on Harvard Road on Cleveland's southeast side.
So far, none of the women have filed charges, and Bartnikowski will have to wait and see what the investigation reveals, Hinton said.
" I have great respect for the Garfield Heights Police Department to do their jobs," Hinton said.
© 2002 Sun Newspapers