STEUBENVILLE, Ohio (WTRF) — The Diocese of Steubenville released a statement Wednesday that it has settled a civil lawsuit filed by a woman who had a sexual relationship with a priest when she was a juvenile.

The woman, referred to as “J.W.” in court proceedings, was impregnated by the priest, Henry Christopher Foxhoven, then the pastor at Holy Cross Parish, Glouster, and St. Marys of the Hills Parish, Buchtel. J.W. was ages 16 and 17 at the time of the abuse.

The lawsuit was filed against the diocese and Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton in January 2021.

“The Diocese of Steubenville takes all allegations and crimes concerning sexual misconduct very seriously. The diocese has a sincere commitment to protecting vulnerable persons from sexual misconduct.”

Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton

Following the October 2018 report of sexual misconduct, the diocese was assisted by its misconduct response team to develop a plan of action and to offer support to J.W. and her then unborn daughter. Bishop Monforton also notified the appropriate governing body of the Church, as required by Church doctrine. After completion of the canonical process, Pope Francis issued his decision to dismiss Foxhoven as a priest.

Foxhoven was ordained as a priest in 2004.  The relationship with J.W. was the first and only incident of sexual misconduct by Foxhoven ever reported to the diocese.  The diocese has no information that Foxhoven has engaged in sexual misconduct with any other person.

The diocese says that it worked with its legal counsel to conduct a “detailed” investigation into Foxhoven’s misconduct.

The diocese maintains that it is not legally liable to J.W.:

While the diocese has admitted that Foxhoven engaged in sexual misconduct with J.W., Bishop Monforton and the diocese have denied and continue to deny all of the allegations and contentions that they were legally liable to J.W. 

Statement from the Diocese of Steubenville

The diocese also states that by “settling the lawsuit with J.W., the diocese and Bishop Monforton reached a compromise to avoid the hazards and costs of litigation.” They also hope the resolution of this case will “promote closure and healing” for Foxhoven’s misconduct and allegations of the diocese’s misconduct.

The diocese says “will continue to take steps to prevent sexual misconduct, to promote openness about sexual misconduct claims, and will continue to move forward with an unwavering commitment to protecting our youth.”

The diocese has published a list of priests who have been “credibly accused” of at least one act of sexual misconduct with a minor.  The list includes Foxhoven.  The diocese encourages anyone who knows about or suspects child abuse to report it and provides several resources and contact numbers on the Child Protection section of the diocese’s webpage (www.diosteub.org/child-protection).