Milwaukee Capuchin Priest “retired” from Ministry Was Accused of Criminal Act According to DA
By John Pilmaier
July 12, 2012
On Saturday, it was reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Fr. Matthew Gottschalk, a Milwaukee Capuchin priest who has been working with inner city families for over fifty years, had been accused in a report submitted to Milwaukee Federal Bankruptcy Court of abusing a minor. The act or acts, which the Capuchins will not specify, allegedly occurred in the 1970’s.
According to Saturday’s story, Gottschalk admitted to his superiors that he did, in fact, commit an “inappropriate” act against a minor. Citing as her authority the Milwaukee District Attorney’s Office, a Capuchin spokesperson insisted that Gottschalk’s action did not “rise” to the “level” of a “criminal act”. Gottschalk, in other words, just “happened” to have been accused of some kind of non-criminal abuse of a minor as the order was readying him to retire. He was moved to Capuchin headquarters in Detroit for health and other mundane reasons, such as his inability to renew his driver’s license, and not because he was accused of committing a criminal act. So, according to the Capuchins on Saturday, there was one report of abuse against Gottschalk for abusing a minor, the abuse was “inappropriate” but, according to the DA, not criminal. And, after all, Gottschalk admitted to the inappropriate behavior, so let’s just move his retirement forward but not remove him from ministry.
Today, however, we are learning that, once again, church authorities and spokespersons seem congenitally unable to simply speak the truth in a candid, responsible, and transparent manner.
Gottschalk, according to an interview published today with the Assistant Milwaukee DA Kent Lovern, had three—not one—reports filed against him in federal bankruptcy court. Two of those reports did, indeed, not “rise” to the level of criminal acts, according to Lovern. But one of the reports most certainly did. The DA cannot consider looking into prosecuting the case because of being time barred by the old statute of limitations. As we have painfully learned over the years, the criminal statute on crimes such as rape and sexual assault are woefully outdated. Most of them have been significantly reformed, but not in time to prosecute many cases that could today be prosecuted.
Church authorities repeatedly tell us part of the truth while deliberately creating the impression that we are hearing all of it. In this case, it’s even more misleading because the Capuchins cited the DA as their authority. Now, when we discover the rest of the truth, do the Capuchins seriously expect us to trust and believe them?
Gottschalk is one of scores of never before named clergy who have been reported into the federal bankruptcy court in Milwaukee. It’s a good thing the Milwaukee DA, unlike church officials, knows how to communicate clearly and responsibly.
SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 23 years and have more than 10,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Visit us at SNAPnetwork.org and SNAPwisconsin.com.