|SNAP Says SLU Shelters Sex Offenders, Challenges Sam Simon
By Chris King
The St. Louis American
May 13, 2009
Two African Americans who were molested by a Catholic priest who is now sheltered at Saint Louis University’s Jesuit Hall are calling for SLU Director of Public Safety Sam Simon to come clean about their former abuser’s whereabouts and activities – and to make a full disclosure of all sex offenders currently housed or employed by the university.
“Put it all on the table so we know who these people are, where they are kept and how we can protect ourselves,” said Charles Spearman.
SLU currently houses Fr. Chester E. Gaiter at Jesuit Hall. Spearman accused Gaiter of sexually abusing him in the mid-1980s at Cardinal Ritter College Prep High School. The suit was settled in 2007, with $140,000 awarded to Spearman and both the Jesuits and the Archdiocese of St. Louis agreeing to write him letters of apology.
Another suit was settled for six figures in February of this year for sexual abuse that Gaiter committed during the same period at Cardinal Ritter against another African-American boy, who wishes to remain anonymous, though his number was provided to The American by Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
“I don’t really have trust in the Catholic church, though they say Gaiter is not able to function now,” this man told The American by phone from Philadelphia, where he recently relocated.
“I haven’t seen him, so I don’t know. If he is fully functional, it’s a concern for any student or anybody in the area. I wouldn’t want any individual to go through what I had to go through.”
Remarkably, Gaiter is only one of three priests with histories of sexual abuse or misconduct being sheltered by Jesuit Hall, on the northwest corner of Lindell and Grand, immediately adjacent to the SLU campus.
Jesuit Hall also shelters Fr. Vincent W. Bryce and Fr. Gerhardt B. Lehmkuhl.
In April 2002, when he was 72, Bryce reportedly admitted he was guilty of sexually abusing a young male 25 years before. At that time he reportedly left his parishes in rural Michigan to answer charges at the Chicago office of the Jesuits.
Bryce now works as a library assistant at the Aquinas Institute of Theology, at 23 S. Spring – directly across the SLU campus from where he lives.
In 1996, Lehmkuhl pled guilty to receiving in the mail a video of two boys having sex and was sentenced to one year in prison. SNAP’s research has uncovered a current job title for Lehmkuhl in St. Louis as “plant manager” for the Jesuits, though the Survivor’s Network has found it difficult to get SLU or church officials to confirm anything about the whereabouts or activities of these men.
“We are a tiny non-profit with a staff of four across the U.S. We have no subpoena powers. There are no investigators on our staff,” David Clohessy and Barbara Dorris of SNAP write in a letter they attempted to deliver to SLU Director of Public Safety Sam Simon yesterday morning.
“But with minimal effort, just using WhitePages.com and Google and BishopAccountability.org, we've found seven proven, admitted and credibly accused sex offender clergymen who either work or worked at Saint Louis University. All have been publicly exposed in recent years, in unrefuted accounts in reputable, mainstream media, none by the university.”
The other four sex offenders in question – Fr. Charles Miller, Fr. Juan Carlos Duran, Fr. Eugene Maio and Fr. Jack Campbell – no longer have ties to SLU or live in St. Louis. Duran, Maio and Campbell have been sued and settled for sex crimes. Miller’s supervisors, the Marianists, admit he has been “credibly accused.”
Duran is a fugitive who has fled overseas, according to SNAP.
Last month, the Memphis Daily News reported on the testimony of Fr. Martin J. Gleeson, who attended Saint Louis University at the same time as Duran in the mid-1990s and resided in the same campus housing.
Rodriguez testified in his deposition that he went to SLU in the late 1990s after Duran was accused of making lewd gestures and watching children undress in the locker room of the university swimming pool.
“Rodriguez tried to downplay the incident as a ‘misunderstanding’ in his deposition,” the Memphis Daily News reported the legal summary of the statement. “But (Rodriguez) admitted that he asked the head of the Dominican house in St. Louis to ‘observe Duran’ and forbade Duran from returning to the pool.”
‘You are a former policeman’
After a demonstration across the street from Jesuit Hall yesterday morning, Spearman and Clohessy led a small group of SNAP activists to the office of SLU Director of Public Safety Sam Simon, where they attempted to hand-deliver SNAP’s letter and requested an audience with Simon.
“Of course he blew us off and sent out some underling,” Spearman said of Simon.
“We were told we could submit our questions to some marketing or communications person. We sent the message that we didn’t need marketing or communications answers. We needed human being-to-human being answers. We got the usual stonewall.”
Clohessy said SNAP usually attempts to deliver its messages to SLU President Fr. Lawrence Biondi and are turned back. He said the group hoped to get a hearing from Simon because he is a former police office and the son of a judge, Paul Simon Sr.
In fact, Mayor Francis G. Slay clerked with Judge Simon and appointed Sam Simon as his director of public safety. It was Simon who threatened Fire Chief Sherman George with disciplinary action and then abruptly resigned, taking the public safety position at SLU.
“Fr. Biondi has ignored our pleas. But you are a former policeman. You have 23 years of experience fighting crime,” Clohessy and Dorris of SNAP wrote to Simon.
“Presumably, you know that even charming, educated and elderly men who molest kids or watch child porn are extremely likely to re-offend. Presumably, you know that advanced age is no ‘cure’ for pedophilia. Presumably, you understand citizens need information to protect themselves and their families. Presumably, you realize that secrecy and deception erode public trust and eventually jeopardize public safety. So we’re appealing to you to act.”
At press time, Clohessy and Spearman said they had not heard back from Simon. Yesterday, The American called and emailed Simon, copying a public relations official at SLU, and had received no response by press time.
SNAP also asked Simon to hold a public forum on public safety at SLU.
“We ask you to arrange and participate in a public discussion of the university’s practice of quietly letting sex offenders live on campus and letting at least one work near campus,” their letter continues.
“A university, of all places, should welcome and encourage vigorous public debate, especially on a subject as crucial as public safety.”
Ken Chackes, a local attorney who represented both African-American men who sued Gaiter for sexual abuse, said only criminal prosecution required a sex offender to register as such with the authorities.
“You do leave yourself open to civil liability without telling people about it,” Chackes said. “You should have an obligation to do what is reasonable in the interest of public safety.”
The SNAP letter to Simon turns those expectations directly at him.
“If Fr. Biondi wants to secretly house sex offenders, that’s his right of course. But as a former police officer, we would hope your commitment to public safety would be firm,” Clohessy and Dorris write.
“When you took the Saint Louis University job, you publicly cited the school’s ‘rich tradition in public safety.’ You vowed to ‘improve public safety’ at the university. We hope you will live up to your promise.”
Any victims of sexual abuse by a priest or anyone with knowledge of sexual predators are encouraged to contact SNAP at 314-566-9790 or SNAPclohessy@aol.com
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