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  Investigation Finds Sexual Abuse at Seminary

By Lori McGinnis
United Press International
May 27, 1993

At least 14 former students at St. Lawrence Seminary prep school have said they were victims of sexual abuse by six friars at the school during the previous three decades, a special investigator reported Thursday.

Milwaukee attorney E. Campion Kersten, joined by attorney Bruce Landgraf, released a 39-page report on their investigation into the allegations of sexual abuse at the school in Mount Calvary in Fond du Lac County.

An outside investigation was requested by the Province of St. Joseph of the Capuchin Order of Detroit, which runs the school, after allegations of sexual abuse were raised in December by former students.

The report said of the 14 complaints of sexual abuse between 1968 and 1986, nine involved a single friar. Five other friars each were involved in a single incident. None of the friars remain at the school, the report said.

In addition to the 14 allegations of sexual abuse, nine former students accused five friars of acts that were considered inappropriate although not criminal conduct, the last occurring in 1992, the report said. Two of the five were among the six alleged to have committed sexual abuse.

The report did not identify any of the friars.

After the allegations were raised in December, two friars were criminally charged. John Raniszewski is awaiting trial on one count of second-degree sexual assault. Charges of enticing a child for immoral purposes and intimidation of a victim were dismissed against Thomas Gardipee.

Kersten said the Capuchins' methods of dealing with abusing friars and their victims in the past was inadequate. In many cases, allegations brought by students were unreported, he said.

However, in 1988 the Capuchins adopted a written policy code to combat sexual abuse and deal with its consequenses. Kersten said the code is among the most progressive of its kind in the nation.

"The problem of religious sex abuse is a complex and disturbing matter, and the response of the Capuchins to reports of sexual abuse have been inadequate in the years past," Kersten said. "But the Capuchins have made consistent good faith efforts to deal with this issue in recent years."

The report recommended specific changes in the order's misconduct policy to reduce conflicts of interests and increase efficiency in discovering abuse problems.

The Rev. Kenneth Reinhart, provincial minister of the Capuchin order, said the report was "a fair, straight forward assessment of what transpired at St. Lawrence school over the last 24 years as to the difficult and painful subject of sexual abuse."

"We cannot undo the past no matter how much we would like to. We can only help those who were injured to overcome their trauma and lead normal lives," Reinhart said. "I believe this report will go a long way toward achieving that goal."

 
 

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