Three men are suing the Catholic Diocese of Lafayette, alleging that a priest molested them as children and that the diocese covered up the abuse and frequently reassigned the priest.
The men allege in their lawsuits that they were 12 or 13 in the 1970s and 1980s when they met the Rev. James Grear at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, where he celebrated Mass in the suburban Indianapolis community of Carmel.
One of the men claims that Grear violently assaulted him in the gym at the Carmel church during a youth rally and that when he told a bishop in his home parish, he was cautioned not to report it and to ask for God's forgiveness, according to his complaint.
The two other men allege that Grear was dean of students at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis when he molested them in his apartment across the street from that school.
The men claim that the diocese knew Grear was abusing children but assigned him to the Carmel church and the Brebeuf school without warning parents and others, and frequently reassigned him to posts as far away as Guam, The Indianapolis Star reported .
"From the beginning, Father Grear's assignments were suspect," the lawsuit contends.
The men filed their suits last fall, two in Marion County and the third in Hamilton County. All three name as defendants Grear, the diocese and the Carmel church.
James Duffy of Lafayette, a lawyer for the diocese and the Carmel church, declined to answer questions about the lawsuits. But, in a court filing that Duffy filed in response to the complaints, he denied that the diocese knew about any misconduct by Grear and therefore could not have knowingly covered it up.
Grear was among 12 priests the Lafayette diocese named last fall as having "substantiated allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor" dating back to 1946. He was ordained on May 30, 1970, and was "removed from public ministry" and "priestly faculties" in October 2001, the diocese said in that announcement.
A telephone message was left Monday seeking comment from Grear, who is 77 and lives in Philadelphia.
Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School's president, the Rev. Bill Verbryke, said Monday in a statement that he had read The Indianapolis Star's story on the men's allegations with "a heavy heart."
Grear worked as an English teacher and Dean of Students at Brebeuf from 1973-1975, but "at this time" neither the school nor the USA Midwest Jesuit Province has "received a notice of any allegation against Grear during his service to Brebeuf," according to Verbryke's statement.
Lawyers for the men said they plan to send out 2,000 letters to former students who attended Brebeuf while Grear was assigned there to determine if there were any other alleged instances of abuse.
"We don't know how extensive this was and we hope this will give us some idea," said Patrick Noaker, a Minnesota lawyer who represents the men.