Former Student Sues St. Lawerence Prep School

By Marie Rohde
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
July 29, 1993

Fond du Lac, WI

A former student is suing St. Lawrence Seminary Prep High School, saying he was sexually abused by a priest there between 1976 and 1979.

The former student, now 30 and living in San Diego, Calif., brought the lawsuit under a pseudonym, "Mr. R." His mother is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit brought by Milwaukee lawyer Robert L. Elliott.

Also named as defendants are the Capuchin Province, the religious order that operates the school; Father Gale Leifeld, the priest accused of the misconduct; Father Joseph Diermeier, an administrator at the school; Father Kenneth Reinhart, the former head of the order; and Catholic Mutual Group, an Omaha, Neb., insurance company.

The man who filed the lawsuit last week in Fond du Lac County was one of six who were subjects of stories that appeared in The Milwaukee Journal in December regarding misconduct by friars at the school. Since then, a number of others have come forward and an investigation conducted by a law firm hired by the Capuchins found that there were at least 14 instances of abuse or inappropriate conduct.

Most of the alleged incidents of misconduct, including the one involving this lawsuit, occurred outside the six-year statute of limitations set by state law for criminal cases.

Criminal charges were issued against two friars as a result of the allegations. Charges against Brother Thomas Gardipee were dropped even though a judge found that Gardipee had masturbated in front of a boy. Second-degree sexual assault charges against Brother John Raniszewski are pending.

This is the only lawsuit that has been filed. It alleges that the abuse caused the former student "severe and painful psychological injuries and extreme emotional distress." State law does not permit a plaintiff to specify a dollar amount for damages.

Leifeld was a teacher and then principal of the school, located northeast of Fond du Lac in Mount Calvary. The lawsuit alleges that the Capuchins should have known about his propensity for improper behavior with students and should have exercised greater caution. It also says school officials failed to report sexual misconduct as required by state law and failed to provide the former student with professional help once they learned of the misconduct.

The lawsuit has been assigned to Circuit Judge John Mickiewicz.


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