Former Van Wert Priest Resigns
January 30, 2007
Van Wert — In the wake of several years of sexual misconduct allegations within the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S., an area church has been notified of the resignation of its suspended pastor.
Parishioners at St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church were read letters from the Rev. Joseph Schmelzer and Bishop Blair of the Diocese of Toledo during weekend Masses.
Schmelzer resigned last week after a four-year leave. Both actions took place after a 2003 lawsuit was filed by Adrian, Mich. resident Jon Schoonmaker. The suit accused Schmelzer of abusing Schoonmaker at a church near Toledo approximately 20 years ago. Schoonmaker sought more than $25,000 in compensatory damages and unspecified punitive damages before later settling with the diocese.
Schoonmaker claimed the priest began touching him in a sexual manner while he was still a minor and then sexually assaulted him when he was 19 years old.
Schoonmaker also claimed to have told the late Bishop James Hoffman about the incidents in 1992 and was told to remain quiet about them.
The resignation also follows a diocesan investigation that included Schmelzer being barred from public ministry in 2003. A deacon assumed pastoral duties at the Van Wert parish, which Schmelzer began pastoring in 1996.
Schmelzer's teaching license was revoked by the state board of education in November.
He appealed to the Vatican and has not been laicized. Therefore, he remains a priest, though he cannot represent himself as a priest in public or even wear a clerical collar.
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