BishopAccountability.org
Rev. Graehler Back on Duty Despite Objections

Evansville Courier & Press
September 19, 2002

Correction: (Publ. 9/20/02, pg. A3) - The local board appointed to review allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Evansville diocesan priests on Thursday clarified its position on the Rev. Kenneth Graehler, 65.

Graehler had been on administrative leave since June following an allegation of misconduct with a minor. He is scheduled to return to active ministry this week.

The board had recommended on Aug. 27 that Graehler remain on administrative leave and be sent for psychological evaluation and take part in a program of rehabilitation.

But board spokesman Gene Brooks said board members realized after releasing their recommendation publicly Wednesday that it may have been misleading.

Brooks said the board wanted Graehler to remain on administrative leave "until" the results of the psychological evaluation were submitted to the diocese, with a plan for rehabilitation, if appropriate.

"It was our mistake," Brooks said. Brooks said Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger had recently informed the board that Graehler had been sent for the evaluation at a psychiatric facility in St. Louis, and that results had come back. Those results were not shared with the review board.

Diocesan spokesman Paul Leingang said it was his understanding that Graehler has taken counseling. Byline: (Copyright) 2002,

Evansville Courier & Press, By MAUREEN HAYDEN, Courier & Press staff writer

An Evansville diocese priest accused of sexual misconduct will be returned to active ministry by Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger, despite a recommendation from the bishop's newly appointed review board that the priest remain on administrative leave.

The Rev. Kenneth Graehler, 64, is scheduled to return to his role as pastor at St. Mary Catholic Church in Sullivan, Ind., and St. Joan of Arc Church in Jasonville, Ind., this weekend. But his return to active ministry comes less than a month after a board of lay people found that there was "reasonable cause" to believe Graehler took part in "inappropriate" conduct. Details of the allegation against Graehler, who has been on administrative leave since June, have not been made public.

The board found that there was "reasonable cause to believe the incidents happened." The conduct did "not constitute sexual misconduct with a minor, but was otherwise inappropriate," according to the board's recommendation to Gettelfinger.

The board recommended that Graehler remain on administrative leave, be sent for a psychological evaluation, and take part in "an appropriate plan for rehabilitation." The bishop does not have to follow the board's recommendation.

The recommendation, dated Aug. 27, 2002, was released to the Evansville Courier & Press on Wednesday by the board chairman, former federal judge Gene Brooks. It had previously been confidential.

Brooks said board members believed they "made a mistake" by not publicly releasing their recommendation sooner.

Brooks also said their recommendation on a second priest, the Rev. Francis Schroering, 69, will be publicly released this week.

Schroering has been on administrative leave since June, after he was accused by two women of sexual misconduct in separate incidents that occurred more than 30 years ago. "We are trying to be as open as we can be without divulging any confidential matters," Brooks said.

Brooks said he informed Gettelfinger on Wednesday of the review board's decision to release their recommendations, instead of allowing the diocese to determine what information would be released.

"(Gettelfinger) said he understood that we were acting as an independent board," said Brooks.

Brooks said the board was concerned that the person who accused Graehler had not been informed of Gettelfinger's decision to return the priest to active ministry.

"It's my understanding that the person first learned about it by reading it in the newspaper," said Brooks.

Brooks said the board would publicly release its recommendation on Schroering after both "the accused and the accuser" are notified by a board representative.

Gettelfinger could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Graehler, reached at the rectory at St. Mary Church in Sullivan, declined to comment about the board's recommendation. In an interview with the Sullivan (Ind.) Daily Times earlier this week, Graehler said he was "angry about the whole process."

Diocese spokesman Paul Leingang said Gettelfinger had earlier decided not to discuss the Graehler or Schroering matters until after both had been resolved.

The diocese also plans to release a statement about the two priests in the Sept. 27 issue of the weekly Catholic newspaper, The Message. (The Courier & Press incorrectly reported in Wednesday's edition that the diocese would release a statement Friday.)

Brooks, along with five other lay people from throughout the 13-county diocese, was appointed by Gettelfinger in July to a diocesan review board created specifically to review allegations against priests accused of sexual misconduct with minors.

The boards were created in dioceses all across the country after the Catholic bishops pledged in June to create a more open process for handling abuse allegations.

The bishops had been under fire for ignoring the allegations or returning admitted abusers to active ministry without disclosing that information to parishioners.

When Gettelfinger announced the formation of the Evansville board, he said members would be "independent of diocesan affiliation." Brooks, who is now a lawyer in private practice, is the only non-Catholic on the board.

This is the recommendation, dated Aug. 27, released Wednesday by Brooks:

"Rev. Kenneth Graehler Matter -- Based on the information that they have to date, the Board feels that there is reasonable cause to believe that the incidents happened but that the conduct of (Father) Graehler does not constitute sexual misconduct with a minor but was otherwise inappropriate. According to Article 4.9 (c) (5) of the (diocese review board) Policies and Procedures, the Board recommends that (Father) Graehler remain on administrative leave and that he receive a psychological evaluation. Based on the results of the evaluation, the Board further recommends that he participate in an appropriate plan for rehabilitation that should include an education component."

Brooks said Gettelfinger told him that Graehler had been sent for a psychological evaluation in St. Louis and that after Gettelfinger received the results he decided to return Graehler to active ministry.

Leingang said the parishioners at St. Mary and St. Joan of Arc were to be informed this weekend that Graehler will return to active ministry. Information box (Publ. 9/20/02, pg. A3) - The local board appointed to review allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Evansville diocesan priests on Thursday clarified its position on the Rev. Kenneth Graehler, 65.

Graehler had been on administrative leave since June following an allegation of misconduct with a minor. He is scheduled to return to active ministry this week.

The board had recommended on Aug. 27 that Graehler remain on administrative leave and be sent for psychological evaluation and take part in a program of rehabilitation.

But board spokesman Gene Brooks said board members realized after releasing their recommendation publicly Wednesday that it may have been misleading.

Brooks said the board wanted Graehler to remain on administrative leave "until" the results of the psychological evaluation were submitted to the diocese, with a plan for rehabilitation, if appropriate.

"It was our mistake," Brooks said. Brooks said Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger had recently informed the board that Graehler had been sent for the evaluation at a psychiatric facility in St. Louis, and that results had come back. Those results were not shared with the review board.

Diocesan spokesman Paul Leingang said it was his understanding that Graehler has taken counseling. The Rev. Kenneth Graehler, 64, is set to return as pastor at St. Mary Catholic Church in Sullivan, Ind., and St. Joan of Arc Church in Jasonville, Ind., this weekend.


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