Priest Facing Child Sex Abuse Allegation Found Dead Of Apparent Suicide - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Priest Facing Child Sex Abuse Allegation Found Dead Of Apparent Suicide

CLEVELAND (AP) - A Roman Catholic priest facing a newly disclosed allegation of child sex abuse from 1980 was found dead of an apparent suicide Thursday, the Diocese of Cleveland said.

The police department in suburban Hinckley said Rev. Don A. Rooney, 48, was found about 11:54 a.m. slumped over the wheel of his car in a pharmacy parking lot.

Rooney, who had suffered an apparent head wound, was taken by helicopter to MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, where he was declared dead on arrival.

"We ask God's mercy upon Fr. Don and upon all of us," the diocese said in announcing the death.

"We ask God's healing balm on the lives of Fr. Don's mother and family. Let us pledge our love to them and one another in this moment of crisis. May the prayers of the entire diocesan community be with the Rooney family."

Robert Tayek, a spokesman for the diocese, said a woman had called the diocese on Monday to allege that Rooney, as a newly ordained priest, had sexually abused her when she was a girl.

The alleged abuse occurred at Rooney's first priestly assignment, Sacred Heart Church in Wadsworth near Akron.

Tayek said he could not specify if the allegation was credible and said all such allegations are referred to civil authorities. The allegation against Rooney was referred to Wadsworth police, Tayek said.

The priest was asked to come to diocesan offices on Wednesday to discuss the allegation and was reported missing to police by his family when he missed the meeting, Tayek said.

The public announcement of his suspension was withheld pending the meeting, Tayek said.

Earlier in the week Bishop Anthony M. Pilla, who suspended another accused priest last week, said he knew of other priest abuse allegations in the diocese.

Rooney had been assigned to St. Anthony of Padua Church in suburban Parma and also had served at St. Columbkille in Parma, St. Patrick in Cleveland and St. Margaret Mary in suburban South Euclid.

The scandal of priest abusers emerged in Boston in January with the disclosure that former priest John J. Geoghan had been moved from parish to parish after being accused. Since January, dozens of priests out of more than 47,000 nationwide have been suspended or forced to resign.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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