Local Priest Accused Of Sexual Abuse

By Maureen Mespell
By Rachel Martin

December 6, 2011 Updated Dec 7, 2011 at 2:42 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) -- A local priest has been removed from his parish amid sexual abuse allegations with a minor.

Fr. Thomas Lombardi has been relieved of his priestly duties as pastor of St. Joseph Hessen Cassel Catholic Chuch in Fort Wayne.

Officials with the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend confirm an alleged victim recently made allegations against Lombardi.

Sources tell Indiana's NewsCenter that a diocesan lawyer contacted the Allen County Sheriff's Department recently, notifying police of the anonymous allegations.

The diocese did not disclose the name or age of the alleged victim, but did say it was a minor involved. They did not share specifics of the allegations either.

The diocese released a letter dated Dec. 2 from Bishop Kevin Rhoades to St. Joe Hessen Cassel parishoners. The letter states the allegations against Lombardi happened years ago in another parish other than St. Joseph Hessen Cassel.

Sources tell INC the reported incident or incidents happened in 1997.

Diocesan officials say one alleged victim has spoken out so far, but could not tell us if there are any more victims.

Rhoades writes in the letter that he has removed Lombardi from pastoral duties, pending the outcome of the investigative process. Diocesan officials say they are following procedure when a priest has been accused of sexual abuse and would not disclose Lombari's current whereabouts.

No criminal charges have been filed against Lombardi, to date; but police are conducting a full investigation. It is not clear what role statue of limitations could play in this matter.

The Allen County Sheriff's Department told the diocesan lawyer that the alleged victim should contact the department so any investigation can go further.

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Due to recent events, Indiana's NewsCenter stopped by St. Joe Hessen Cassel Catholic Church Tuesday night at 11521 Old US Highway 27 South in Fort Wayne to get reaction. Every person addressed would not comment on the matter and there appeared to be a meeting in session.

INC's Rachel Martin stopped by a nearby gas station for community reaction. Although most people were familiar with the area and the church, they were unaware of the recent events that took place. A few people shared their reaction, but requested to stay anonymous.

One woman said, "I'm very disappointed in the world, the way people treat other people, especially in a church. You would think that would be the most trusting, loyal place you could go."

Another woman said she works closely with children and that it saddens her to hear such news. "I just feel that we can become callus to the fact that it happens again, and again, and again. You just hope that it’s something that will never happen again to an innocent child."

A man who works in the area on his way home said it's shocking something like that would happen in Fort Wayne. "But you see it more and more nowadays, believe it or not, especially with religion. That's really bad."

Indiana's NewsCenter will update this story with more information as it becomes available.




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