Priest Sues Sex Abuse Accusers

CLEVELAND (AP) - A suspended priest filed a lawsuit against three men who have accused him of sexually molesting them as teenagers in the mid-1980s.

The Rev. Joseph Seminatore, 60, a priest since 1969, said he has been falsely accused.

His lawsuit, filed Monday in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, contends the abuse accusations are part of a conspiracy that includes the alleged victims' lawyers, Howard Schulman and Stephen Bloom. Seminatore seeks $1 million from each of his accusers and the two lawyers.

Three men filed a lawsuit July 11 against the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, saying they were abused while living at Parmadale Family Services, a treatment center for troubled kids where Seminatore was a longtime chaplain.

Seminatore was suspended by the diocese in April, after the first abuse allegation against him surfaced. The Cuyahoga County Department of Children & Family Services, after investigating the claim, later said it could not be substantiated.

"It's a fraud on the court and a fraud on the diocese," said Ken Seminatore, the priest's brother and his lawyer.

Schulman, who has filed at least three other suits against the diocese this year, said Seminatore's suit had no merit.

The suit includes sworn statements from three Catholic Charities officials who said Seminatore did not have any past complaints of sexual misconduct in his personnel file. Catholic Charities oversees the Parmadale treatment center.

Seminatore also filed affidavits from a dozen former Parmadale teens who said Seminatore did nothing inappropriate with them and that they saw nothing inappropriate between the priest and one of his accusers.

The accusations against Seminatore also have been challenged by the Cleveland diocese, which has asked that the victims' suit be dismissed.

Robert Ducatman, a diocese lawyer, said the allegations are too vague to justify the complaint. In their lawsuit, Seminatore's accusers name no specific dates or incidents of abuse.

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