Father Schmelzer Resigns Post at St. Mary's

Times Bulletin [Toledo OH]
January 29, 2007

Toledo Catholic Diocese Bishop Leonard Blair, has requested the Rev. Joseph Schmelzer resign his position as pastor of St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Van Wert, according to the Toledo Catholic Diocese.

Reportedly, parishioners learned of the resignation at Masses held over the weekend. A release from the Vatican to Bishop Blair affirms Father Schmelzer's removal from public ministry, according to Sally Oberski, spokesperson for the Toledo Diocese.

Jon Schoonmaker, of Adrian, filed a lawsuit in 2003 alleging that Schmelzer abused him at a West Toledo church approximately 20 years ago.

In addition to Schmelzer, the Catholic Diocese of Toledo and St. Clement's Church in Toledo were named as defendants in the lawsuit. Schoonmaker asked for more than $25,000 in compensatory damages and unspecified punitive damages. Schoonmaker said he was abused during a "spiritual counseling session" when he was 17.

Schoonmaker alleged that Father Schmelzer began touching him in a sexual manner when he was a minor, and that a sexual assault occurred when he was 19 years old.

The lawsuit states that Schoonmaker told Schmelzer's supervisor about the alleged molestation a few years after it happened, and had been told it "was just Father Schmelzer's way of showing affection."

The lawsuit further states that Schoonmaker allegedly told the late Bishop James Hoffman about the alleged incidents in 1992, but was urged to keep the matter to himself and not make the matter public, in order to spare the diocese from embarrassment.

In 2003, Schmelzer was barred from public ministry and appealed to the Vatican. His teaching license was revoked by the Ohio Board of Education in November. Schmelzer technically remains a priest because he has not been laicized, according to the Toledo Diocese. Father Schmelzer had served as pastor at St. Mary of the Assumption since 1996. He was placed on leave after Schoonmaker made the allegations of sexual abuse.

Father Schmelzer, who was ordained in 1977, has maintained since the beginning that he did nothing wrong. He could not be reached for comment.


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