Former Priest Testifies That He Does Not Recollect Alleged Abuse

Herald Tribune [Largo FL]
Downloaded May 15, 2003

A former priest who is accused of sexually abusing a Bradenton boy nearly 20 years ago testified that not only is he innocent, but he has no recollection of the child.

Testimony began Wednesday in Robert Schaeufele's trial on two counts of capital sexual battery, both of which carry maximum sentences of life in prison.

"It did not happen," Schaeufele said. "I don't even remember (him), much less doing anything like that."

Schaeufele, who resigned as pastor of a Pasco County church last year, also faces three additional rape charges involving three men who allege they were sodomized as children. In all, 22 people have come forward with abuse claims against Schaeufele, who faces no criminal charges in most of those cases because of the statute of limitations.

"I wanted him never to be able to do it again," said the alleged victim, now 28, in the capital battery cases, whose identity is not being released. "And I wanted to get justice for what happened."

During two hours of testimony Wednesday, Schaeufele denied allegations that he had sex toys and pornographic magazines in his room. The alleged toy, he said, was actually a back massager, and Schaeufele said he did not believe in pornography.

He did, however, acknowledge administering an enema to a Venice youth sometime around 1980, but claimed he did it with the boy's health in mind.

"I regret it very much. ... Up until the late 1980s, I didn't know giving someone an enema could be a crime," Schaeufele said.

Schaeufele's attorney, Deborah Moss, said her client would still be a priest if he had not volunteered information about the enema incident.

"Robert Schaeufele is being prosecuted for his honesty," Moss told the jury.

Jurors are expected to begin deliberations Thursday morning.

After he was ordained in 1975, Schaeufele served in nine churches in Pinellas, Pasco, Hillsborough and Sarasota counties. In April 2002, when Schaeufele was pastor at St. Michael the Archangel in Hudson, a man complained to church authorities about being molested by Schaeufele 20 years before. The allegation led to Schaeufele's resignation and an investigation by prosecutors and police.

Earlier this month, Roman Catholic clergy attending a meeting of the National Federation of Priests' Councils in Kansas City said the church sex abuse crisis that erupted around the nation more than a year ago continues to affect their work. At least 325 of the 46,000 U.S. priests were either dismissed from their duties or resigned last year as the crisis spread from the Boston Archdiocese across the country


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