Service Offers 'Healing'
Bishop Comforts Victims of Abuse

By Thomas B. Langhorne
Courier & Press
November 19, 2007

JASPER, Ind. — Norbert Schroeder had a different perspective than any of the other roughly 100 people who came to St. Joseph Church on Sunday for a prayer service for abuse victims.

The 2 p.m. service, which the church billed as a "prayer service of healing," came months after the Diocese of Evansville disclosed allegations that a priest had molested more than 10 people.

The priest — Monsignor Othmar Schroeder, who died in 1988 — was Norbert Schroeder's older brother.

"A lot of the people here knew who I was," Schroeder said Sunday.

"I could see (Othmar Schroeder) was as human as we were, and he could make mistakes just like we could," said Schroeder, 83, who was 10 years younger than his brother. "I always looked up to him.

"... I've known a few of the victims, and I think they've forgiven. If we can't forgive and forget, we're going to be suffering all our lives."

Abuse hot line

Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger said the diocese has established a telephone hot line to report allegations of sexual abuse by diocese personnel. The number is (800) 800-5556. A diocese victim assistance coordinator, Dr. Rebecca Luzio, should be informed as well by calling 490-9565 or (866) 200-3004.

Norbert Schroeder — who said his brother never acknowledged molesting anyone — issued a plea to all abuse victims to report their abuse.

"The young people have got to report it," he said.

During a service intended to offer comfort and healing to abuse victims and their supporters, Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger said Jesus alone can bring any sense to the victims' suffering.

"He is the one who can heal the pain and suffering," he said, holding aloft a wooden crucifix.

Gettelfinger also offered an apology.

"Wherever the church may have failed you or those you know over the years, I offer you the apology of the church," he said.

He apologized as well for any mistakes he may have made personally that could have left abuse victims feeling they had been served poorly.

The allegations against Schroeder are the most against a priest since the diocese began in 1943. Othmar Schroeder founded Holy Family Church in Jasper in 1947 and served there nearly three decades before being reassigned to another church.

Gettelfinger first disclosed the allegations of abuse in August. He requested Schroeder's picture be removed from Holy Family Church and that a local Knights of Columbus branch remove Schroeder's name from the formal name of its council.

After Sunday's service, Gettelfinger said he first became aware of abuse allegations against Schroeder in 1996.

"The first small number of victims asked for anonymity and confidentiality," he said. "When more people came forward last summer, it became possible to take action without endangering the anonymity of the first group."

The bishop acknowledged the church's reputation has been hurt by the revelations.

"The pain is so deep," he said. "We can't get lost in hand-wringing. We must continue to move forward."

The culture has changed, Gettelfinger said, since the days when young people could be looked down upon or even punished for reporting abuse by a church official.

"(Abuse victims) must report, report, report," he said. "Don't bottle it up."


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