Lawsuit Accuses Priest Of Sex Abuse

CLEVELAND (AP) - Three men who lived in a youth treatment center in the mid-1980s filed a lawsuit accusing a former chaplain at the home of sexually abusing them.

The men, who filed the lawsuit anonymously, say the Rev. Joseph Seminatore fondled and molested them at Parmadale Family Services, a treatment center for about 100 emotionally disturbed children run by Cleveland Catholic Charities.

Seminatore is one of 15 priests in the Cleveland diocese under suspension for allegedly sexually abusing children.

Lawyer Howard Schulman said he filed the lawsuit as a class action because he suspects Seminatore's victims are too numerous to file lawsuits individually.

"We hope that those other victims will contact us and tell us what happened to them, in confidence," Schulman said.

The suit filed in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court names the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland and Parmadale as defendants, but not Seminatore. The lawsuit asked for unspecified damages.

A chaplain at Parmadale for 20 years, Seminatore, 60, has been on administrative leave since May. He was suspended by Bishop Anthony Pilla after one of the accusers, now 31 and living in Cleveland, came forward with sexual-abuse allegations.

The county Department of Children and Family Services concluded last month that the allegations could not be substantiated.

Seminatore will remain suspended pending the outcome of a grand jury investigation and the recommendations of an independent commission that is studying the clergy sex-abuse problem in the diocese, diocesan spokesman Bob Tayek said.

Kenneth Seminatore, the priest's attorney brother, said the priest is the victim of false allegations brought by a troubled man with a criminal past and a vendetta.

"If my brother was a civilian employee at Parmadale, he would have been back to work the next day," Kenneth Seminatore said.

The priest's lead accuser was an altar boy, an athlete and a fairly good student until he encountered Seminatore, Schulman said.

The man has spent about two years in prison for aggravated assault, theft, receiving stolen property and domestic abuse.

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