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Retired Diocese of Steubenville Priest Faces Sex Abuse Allegation

BRIDGEPORT — A retired Belmont County Catholic priest and former schoolteacher has been relieved of active ministry duties after the Roman Catholic Diocese of Steubenville received what it says is a credible sexual abuse allegation against him.

Diocese spokesman Dino Orsatti said Monday that Msgr. Mark Froehlich, 75, of Belmont will no longer be able to participate in church-related activities.

Although Froehlich retired in 2014, he was still helping some churches with activities such as Masses, confessions and church functions.

As of Monday night, Froehlich was not facing criminal charges. But Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton decided that the allegation was serious enough to remove him from active ministry, Orsatti said.

“We take every allegation extremely seriously,” said Orsatti, who also said the Roman Catholic Church issued a zero-tolerance policy regarding sexual abuse allegations in 2002. “We’re just following that decree and taking extra precautions.”

However, Froehlich said Monday night that he disputes the allegation.

“These things are not truthful,” said Froehlich. “I haven’t even seen these allegations, so I really can’t comment.

“I’ve been doing this for 50 years,” Froehlich said of his duties as a teacher and as a priest. “With this crazy #MeToo crap that’s going on, a defendant like me will have a tough time.”

Froehlich said he taught English and Latin at both Catholic and public schools as well as advised the staff of various yearbooks. He taught at St. Joseph Central Grade School in Bridgeport, where he also once served as the St. Joseph parish priest, beginning in 1988. The diocese closed St. Joseph’s school in 2011 because of declining enrollment. Froehlich also said he taught at St. John Central High School, Bellaire, from 1978-81.

Orsatti said Froehlich also taught at Guernsey Catholic High School in Cambridge and St. Joseph Catholic High School in Ironton. He said the allegation did not come from a student at any of those schools.

Newspaper records indicate that Froehlich, originally of Woodsfield, was ordained at Holy Name Cathedral in Steubenville in 1969. He was stationed at churches throughout eastern Ohio but was pastor of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish, in Barnesville, as well as St. Mary Parish, in Temperanceville, at the time of his retirement.

Orsatti said Monforton informed priests throughout the diocese Friday about the allegations. During Mass Saturday and Sunday, several of those priests read statements about Froehlich to their parishioners. All those churches are in Belmont County. They are St. Joseph; St. Mary; Assumption of Blessed Virgin Mary; and Sacred Heart, Neffs.

Orsatti said the diocese encourages anyone who is a sexual abuse victim to call the police. The diocese also asks that victims within the diocese contact Thomas S. Wilson in the diocese office of civil law. He can be reached 740-282-3631 or at twilson@diosteub.org.

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