|Ex-Priest Asks Court to Drop Abuse Suit
By Pat Kinney
Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier
Febriary 7, 2008
WATERLOO — Attorneys for a defrocked Catholic priest have filed a motion to dismiss a sexual abuse suit filed against him by a Waterloo physician.
In a motion filed late last week in Black Hawk County District Court, attorneys for former Waterloo priest William T. Schwartz argue that Dr. Donald Schmit's allegations against him, contained in a suit filed in 2005, are alleged to have occurred more than 40 years ago and are beyond any applicable statute of limitations for the matter to be brought to court.
Schmit's suit was part of a $5 million settlement with the Archdiocese of Dubuque announced two weeks ago involving multiple cases, but his and two other cases involving former Waterloo residents are still proceding against Schwartz personally.
In the suit, Schmit alleged Schwartz sexually abused him between 1964-66, when Schmit was a student at Columbus High School and Schwartz was assigned to St. Joseph's Catholic Church and also taught at Columbus.
"The incidents have been alleged to have occurred nearly 40 years ago," Schwartz's attorneys, Robert Day and Werner Hellmer of Dubuque, emphasized in a legal brief supporting their motion for summary judgment and dismissal of the case, scheduled for trial May 2.
Schwartz's attorneys generally argue that, while Schmit was a minor at the time the alleged abuse occurred, he had been aware of what he perceived to be abuse since the early 1980s but took no action until writing a letter to archdiocesan officials in late 2004 and filing his suit the following spring.
Schmit has said he filed suit after learning in January 2005 that the archdiocese had settled a separate suit out of court with a Cedar Rapids man who had claimed Schwartz sexually abused him in the early 1980s, nearly 20 years after the alleged incidents involving Schmit. Schmit had said he previously believed for years that his was an isolated case.
Two other former Waterloo residents, Joseph Faucher and Steven Lown, also filed separate suits in federal court in 2005, alleging Schwartz had abused them in the late 1970s when they were students at Columbus and Schwartz was spiritual director there.
Schmit's, Faucher's and Lown's suits, all filed by attorneys Chad Swanson and Tom Staack of Waterloo, were part of a $5 million settlement for 20 of their clients with the Archdiocese of Dubuque announced Feb. 21.
The archdiocese settled 15 clergy sex abuse suits and five other claims for which no civil action had yet been taken. The suits alleged various incidents of abuse from the 1950s through the late '70s involving nine priests, including Schwartz. All but Schwartz are deceased.
While the archdiocese settled those claims, Schmit's, Faucher's and Lown's suits are still active against Schwartz individually.
Archdiocesan officials said Schwartz retired in the early 1990s, was removed from priestly duties and treated at a facility in Arizona, the state in which he currently resides. Pope Benedict XVI formally defrocked him in December.
Schmit's attorneys have an opportunity to resist the dismissal motion.
Schwartz's attorneys have not yet filed similar dismissal motions in Lown's or Faucher's cases, each of which have less immediate court dates than Schmit's.
Attorneys for the Archdiocese of Dubuque filed similar dismissal motions in other abuse cases prior to settling out of court with Swanson's and Staack's clients.
Contact Pat Kinney at (319) 291-1484 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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