Retired Priest's Jailing Stirs Man's Emotions
By Jim O'Hara
September 11, 2007
Mike Schulte appeared to be struggling to hold back tears and keep his anger in check as he stood outside a Syracuse City Court room Monday afternoon.
He had nothing to do with the case that had just been heard inside. But he had made the trip to Syracuse from Virginia hoping for some closure in his own life.
After all, the man who was being sentenced by Judge Kate Rosenthal was the retired Roman Catholic priest Schulte says molested him when he was just a 13-year-old altar boy in Delaware back in the 1960s.
"He's a very evil man," Schulte said of Francis DeLuca.
Now 59, Schulte said there was small consolation in the fact DeLuca was taken in handcuffs into court Monday and sentenced to jail.
DeLuca, 77, was to have been sentenced to probation only after pleading guilty June 28 to molesting a teenage boy here over four years.
But Rosenthal said she backed out of that plea arrangement based on a "heart-wrenching" letter from the victim's mother and on comments DeLuca made to the probation department. Those comments appeared to show he had not learned from his counseling, she said.
"It does not appear you
gained one iota of insight into what you did to the victim," the judge said, sentencing DeLuca to six years' probation with the first 60 days to be served in the Onondaga County Correctional Facility, in Jamesville.
Rosenthal took issue with DeLuca's comments to the probation department in which he said he was surprised the victim had reported being molested, considering all DeLuca had done for the boy. He also told the probation department he had thought of himself as a "parental figure" to victims he has been accused of molesting in Delaware decades ago.
DeLuca served as a priest in the Wilmington Diocese for 35 years before he was dismissed from public ministry in 1993 after being accused of sexually abusing a minor in the 1960s.
He moved to Syracuse, and the reasons for his departure from Delaware and the priesthood were kept secret.
"He chose to keep a secret," the mother of the Syracuse-area victim wrote in her letter. The mother wrote that her son, who had always been happy and witty, was now "a shell of a person" who had turned to drugs and alcohol.
Rosenthal noted DeLuca wasn't the only one keeping the secret. She noted church officials in Delaware did, too.
Schulte said he also had initially kept the secret after being molested by DeLuca when he was 13 and accompanying DeLuca on trips to Philadelphia and Richmond, Va., for church business. Schulte said DeLuca had won the confidence of the boy's mother by telling her he thought Schulte had the calling to be a priest himself.
Schulte saidhe finally spoke up when he was still a teenager after it appeared DeLuca was molesting others.
Schulte said church officials turned the matter over to be investigated by a priest who also has now been identified by diocesan officials as a pedophile. Nothing was done, however, to stop DeLuca from having contact with other children, Schulte said.
"He was grooming me for this," he said. "He was a predator and I was a victim, even though I didn't know that at the time."
Schulte said he left the Catholic Church. Earlier this year, the current bishop in Delaware offered an apology and urged him to return to his Catholic faith, he said.
But as he stood Monday afternoon outside City Court, Schulte said he didn't see that happening anytime soon, if at all.
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