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Group asks diocese to reveal details in priest's alleged abuse

FORT WAYNE -- Though local Roman Catholic officials removed a parish priest following an allegation of sexual abuse, a national survivors' advocacy group believes the diocese did not go far enough.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said the Fort Wayne-South Bend Catholic Diocese should have revealed when and where the alleged abuse took place.

The Rev. Thomas C. Lombardi, 62, was removed from his duties at St. Joseph Catholic Church-Hessen Cassel.

According to a letter written by the Rev. Kevin C. Rhoades, bishop of the diocese, the church's "commitment to the safety of our children and young people" necessitated Lombardi's removal.

The letter, provided to The Journal Gazette by the diocese, said the incident involved an unnamed minor, saying it took place some years ago at another parish, which was not named.

But SNAP officials said the diocese did not disclose all the information it has regarding Lombardi's actions.

Monsignor Robert C. Schulte, diocesan vicar general and rector of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne, said the reason little information has been released has been out of consideration for the "accuser/victim," who wishes to remain anonymous.

Besides a request for more information, SNAP also urged Rhoades to visit every parish where Lombardi ever worked, which includes St. Louis Besancon parish in New Haven, St. Joseph in Garrett and St. Joseph in Mishawaka.

The bishop should beg "other victims or witnesses to come forward and report what they saw," wrote Barbara Dorris, SNAP outreach director.

Schulte believes the diocese's "safe environment program" provides such opportunities for disclosure. Twice a year, the diocese publishes information in every parish bulletin asking anyone who has suffered from abuse to come forward. The information includes details on whom to contact.

Such information is also available on the diocesan website.

"We feel that we're doing quite a bit. If we get some more information, then more action could be taken," Schulte said. "We'd have to see if it is warranted."