Seven Mcleod County Priests Credibly Accused of Sexual Abuse, Two Were in Silver Lake for 28 Years
By Jeremy Jones
March 31, 2016
Nearly half of the 16 priests identified Tuesday by the New Ulm Diocese to have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor served in McLeod County. Six of them were in Winsted.
The names were jointly disclosed by the law firm of Jeff Anderson & and Associates and The Diocese of New Ulm.
Mike Finnegan of Jeff Anderson & Associates said Thursday the information was released as part of the litigation of two lawsuits filed against the diocese by Lori Stoltz and Kim Schmit. Schmit was sexually assaulted by her parish priest in Willmar in 1968.
"Those lawsuits and several others sought the release of these names and the documents of abuse," Finnegan said. "After some court decisions we had a dialogue with the diocese and came to this. So it came out of litigation and ended up in a discussion."
The named priests are: Michael Skoblik, Douglas Schleisman, Rudolph Henrich, Louis Heitzer, Charles Stark, Dennis Becker and Robert Clark. Of the seven, Becker and Clark are listed in released documents to be still alive.
Only Becker worked in Hutchinson.
Henrich, Heitzer, Stark, Becker, Schleisman and Clark all spent time in Winsted.
Out of all cities in the diocese, which covers central and west central Minnesota, Silver Lake parishioners spent the most time with at least one priest alleged to have abused minors: 28 years. Skoblik was the pastor there from 1965 to 1988. Schleisman's tenure was from 1984 to 1993.
Finnegan said two more steps are coming soon.
"There will definitely be more information given as we work together to get more information added to the list," Finnegan said. "We also have all the data about what bishops knew and when they knew it. We're going through that now ... it will be released soon."
“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 Bishop John LeVoir of the Diocese of New Ulm. “On behalf of the Church, I apologize for the grave offenses committed against the vulnerable by those who were ordained to serve our communities.”
He encouraged other victims to come forward. But victims may only have until May 25 to press charges.
"It's true that there is limited time," Finnegan said. "There is less than two months."
The Minnesota Child Victims Act was passed in 2013, and temporarily lifted the statute of limitations for child sex abuse for three years. The Diocese of New Ulm is the last Minnesota Diocese to release a list of names. Some others were available as early as 2013.
Many of the priests named served numerous parishes around the diocese, as well as at missions in Guatemala and the White Earth Reservation in north central Minnesota.
LeVoir's leadership began in 2008 after former Archbishop John Neinstedt was promoted to the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Neinstedt stepped down in 2015 after the Ramsey County Attorney's office filed charges against the archdiocese, claiming it failed to protect children from pedophiles.