Priest Faces Abuse Allegations in Civil Lawsuit
By Pat Kinney
Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier
January 16, 2005
WATERLOO - The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Dubuque has paid a $100,000 out-of-court settlement in a lawsuit filed by a Cedar Rapids man who said he was sexually abused in 1983 by a diocesan priest who was spiritual director at Columbus High School in Waterloo in the late 1970s and served at other local parishes for more than two decades.
The suit was filed in Linn County District Court in June 2004 by Daniel J. Ortmann of Cedar Rapids against the Rev. William Schwartz and the archdiocese.
The archdiocese, named as a co-defendant with Schwartz, was dismissed from the suit in October, following the settlement. No trial date has been set on the allegations against Schwartz, but a scheduling conference is pending.
Schwartz's attorney, Robert Day of Dubuque, said his client would respond to the allegations in an answer to the suit filed in court. No answer has yet been filed.
Schwartz, ordained in 1958, had pastoral and teaching assignments at a number of Northeast Iowa Catholic churches and schools in the 1960s and '70s, including St. Patrick's in Ryan, assistant pastor at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Waterloo in the early 1960s and Don Bosco High School in Gilbertville. He was at Columbus High from 1975 to 1979, where he taught religion and also served as the school's spiritual director. He also taught at Columbus in the '60s during his tenure at St. Joseph's.
The Rev. Msgr. James Barta, vicar general of the archdiocese, said there were no complaints in Schwartz's file at the archdiocese, but said he was investigated by the Waterloo Police Department many years ago, with no action resulting. Waterloo police records show no indication of an investigation, Chief Tom Jennings said.
Former Cedar Falls Police Chief Loras Jaeger, now police chief in Ames, said he investigated allegations regarding Schwartz in the late 1970s, but was unable to build enough of a case to bring charges.
Jaeger, then a detective on the Cedar Falls force, said he personally contacted then-Dubuque Archbishop James J. Byrne and made him aware of the allegations.
Ortmann attended St. Jude's Catholic Church and elementary school in Cedar Rapids and was an eighth-grader when the abuse allegedly occurred.
"During such time Schwartz traveled to Ortmann's home and took Ortmann, along with a friend for a walk, where within a secluded area, Schwartz engaged in improper physical and sexual contact with Ortmann," states the suit filed by Ortmann's attorney, John Wagner of Amana.
According to the suit, Schwartz was a visiting pastor at St. Jude's and also a priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Rockwell, where he conducted religious retreats. After the alleged incident involving Schwartz, Ortmann and other St. Jude's students participated in a retreat, the suit states.
"During such retreat, Schwartz engaged in various physical and verbal intimidation tactics to prevent Ortmann from discussing the aforementioned physical and sexual abuse," the suit states.
"The Diocese of Dubuque intentionally and/or negligently failed to take action against Schwartz including, but not limited to, investigating his actions, defrocking him, reporting him to law enforcement, warning members of the Diocese about him," the suit states.
Ortmann has suffered "severe and permanent emotional distress," the suit states. He seeks damages to cover "expenses for medical and psychological treatment, therapy and counseling" and "lost income and earning capacity."
He also seeks punitive damages.
Barta said Schwartz was removed from priestly duties many years ago, although he couldn't confirm if it happened before or after the incident alleged in Ortmann's suit. Records show Schwartz's last assignment was in 1982, although records list him as officially being retired in March 1993.
"In the interim," between Schwartz's removal and retirement, "he was not active," Barta said.
Barta said Schwartz was told he could no longer function or represent himself as a priest, could not say Mass in public and was directed to leave the geographic boundaries of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, which covers roughly the northeast quadrant of Iowa. Schwartz subsequently moved to Arizona, where he was in a treatment facility, Barta said.
Barta said the archdiocese agreed to the $100,000 settlement with Ortmann because, "like most settlements, a prolonged legal battle isn't in anybody's best interests." He also said the archdiocese's handling of the case conforms with its recently adopted policy on the handling of sexual abuse complaints.
Schwartz served at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Marshalltown in between his stints at Don Bosco and Columbus. After leaving Columbus, he served at Holy Ghost and St. Anthony's churches in Dubuque, a parish serving Cartersville and Swaledale and at Newman High School in Mason City.
Steve Theisen of Hudson, co-founder of the Northeast Iowa chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, applauded Ortmann's "courage" in coming forward and criticized the archdiocese's "lack of openness and lack of open dialog" on this and other abuse cases. He encouraged victims to seek legal remedies.
Pat Kinney can be reached at 291-1484 or at email@example.com
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.