Names of 16 priests accused of abusing children in New Ulm Diocese released
By Jean Hopfensperger
March 29, 2016
|Kim Schmit, one of the victims of deceased Diocese of New Ulm priest Fr. David Roney, holds a photo of herself at the age when she was abused as she speaks during a press conference at Jeff Anderson & Associates law office in St. Paul. |
|Attorney Jeff Anderson speaks during a press conference at Jeff Anderson & Associates law office in St. Paul. |
|Lori Stoltz, one of the victims of deceased Diocese of New Ulm priest Fr. David Roney stands with attorney Jeff Anderson during a press conference at Jeff Anderson & Associates law office in St. Paul. |
|Lori Stoltz, one of the victims of deceased Diocese of New Ulm priest Fr. David Roney, holds a photo of herself at the age when she was abused as she speaks during a press conference at Jeff Anderson & Associates law office in St. Paul. |
|Attorney Jeff Anderson holds hands with Lori Stoltz, left, and Kim Schmit, two of the victims of deceased Diocese of New Ulm priest Fr. David Roney after a press conference at Jeff Anderson & Associates law office in St. Paul. |
Kim Schmit was in grade school in 1968 when she was sexually assaulted by her parish priest in Willmar. She told her parents, who contacted their church and were assured things would be taken care of, she said.
Nearly a half-century later, the New Ulm Diocese has publicly identified the Rev. David Roney, one of 16 priests whose names were released Tuesday as priests who have been credibly accused of abusing children.
Schmit couldn’t believe it took 48 years, including years in which Roney, now deceased, went on to abuse more children.
Even so, “this has finally given me … a little peace of mind and justice,” she said at a news conference in the St. Paul office of victims’ attorney Jeff Anderson.
New Ulm was the last of Minnesota’s six Catholic districts — five dioceses and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis — to make public a list of priests credibly accused of sexually abusing children. The first lists came out in 2013. The numbers range from six in the Crookston Diocese to 33 priests in St. Cloud to nearly 60 in the Twin Cities archdiocese.
The list becomes public just weeks before the deadline of the Minnesota Child Victim’s Act, which opened a three-year window for older abuse cases to be heard in civil court.
More than 100 Minnesota priests now have been identified as credibly accused of sex abuse. However, the lists are not complete, say victim’s advocates.
As with the other dioceses, the New Ulm list was made public after the settlement of clergy abuse lawsuits, which required the release of the names of credibly accused priests as well as internal church documents about them.
The settlement of Schmit’s case, and that of her friend Lori Stoltz, produced the New Ulm documents, said Anderson.
The list is significant because former Archbishop John Nienstedt had led the New Ulm Diocese before his promotion to the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Nienstedt stepped down last June after the Ramsey County Attorney’s office filed charges against the archdiocese, claiming it failed to protect children from pedophiles. That case is still pending.
New Ulm Bishop John LeVoir issued a statement Tuesday saying the diocese would continue to work to help victims.
“It is important that we recognize the credible accusations made against these men and acknowledge the terrible harm done by abuse in church ministry,” said LeVoir. “On behalf of the Church, I apologize for the grave offenses committed against the vulnerable by those who were ordained to serve our communities.”
The New Ulm Diocese, in south central Minnesota, is home to about 60,000 Catholics served by 75 parishes in 15 counties. The priests identified served in dozens of churches, as well as schools and in missions in Guatemala and the White Earth Reservation in north central Minnesota.
Most of the priests are accused of multiple offenses, said Anderson. His office has 13 pending abuse cases involving the Rev. Rudolph Henrich — a longtime pastor at St. Margaret Mary Church in Golden Valley — 14 cases involving the Rev. Michael Skoblik, and a dozen with the Rev. J. Vincent Fitzgerald.
Abuse cases are pending against 14 of the 16 priests, he said.
None of the abuse uncovered has occurred under Nienstedt’s tenure, from 2001 to 2007, said Anderson.
“But we know there are other offenders out there,” he said.
The list of names made public was agreed upon by the diocese and Anderson. Three of the 16 are still alive: the Rev. Robert Clark, the Rev. Dennis Becker and the Rev. Douglas Schleisman, according to Anderson’s office.
Clark was a religion teacher at St. Agnes School in St. Paul from 1998 to 2002, and also served in Marshall, Winsted and New Ulm.
Bob Schwiderski, a longtime advocate for Minnesota’s clergy abuse victims, said he was abused by one of the priests named. Like Schmit’s, his parents notified his church in Hector back in the 1960s that the Rev. William Marks had sexually abused their son.
“They knew in 1963 that Marks was an abuser, yet they dropped him off on the unsuspecting kids in Green Valley,” he said, referring to Marks’ next assignment. “They [the diocese] talk about transparency. Where was that spirit over the past 50 years?”
That said, naming Marks will give some relief to his victims, said Schwiderski, because they “now have some official validation.”
Some of the New Ulm names also appeared on the list of accused priests from the Twin Cities archdiocese, including Marks and the Rev. Joseph (Louis) Heitzer. Other priests have long been on the radar of victims’ advocates.
The list also includes: Cletus Altermatt, Gordon Buckley, John Gleason, Harry Majerus, Francis Markey, John Murphy and Charles Stark.
Bishop LeVoir urged other victims to step forward, and said he was grateful for those who did.
Anderson exhorted victims to step forward in the 58 days remaining before the deadline in state law.
“The clock is ticking,” said Anderson.