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  Priest Admits to Parishioners Sexual Encounters with Boys

By Tim Bonfield and Walt Schaefer
Cincinnati Enquirer
June 24, 2001

A priest at Queen of Peace Catholic Church confessed Saturday to parishioners that he had three sexual encounters with teen-age boys between 1984 and 1999.

While the Butler County Sheriff's Department continues to investigate the case, a colleague read the Rev. Kenneth Schoettmer's confession at the 4:30 p.m. Mass. The brief statement asked parishioners to pray for him and forgive him.

Father Schoettmer has been placed on administrative leave. The Archdiocese of Cincinnati appointed the Rev. William Schwartz to be temporary administrator of the 750-family parish in Butler County. He read the confession:

"Dear Parish Members of Queen of Peace,

"I am grateful to Father Schwartz for reading this to you. I wish that I could do it myself, but I am too ashamed.

"During the 18 years that I have spent in the Hamilton area, I did have sexual encounters with three different teen-age males. To the best of my recollection these encounters occurred sometime between 1984 and 1987, and once in 1999.

"The encounters were not long lasting. None of the young men were from this parish. These were the only such encounters.

"This is what I told to Lt. (Greg) Blankenship last Tuesday. He indicated to me and to the Archdiocese that my testimony was corroborated by a polygraph test which I had taken.

"I have endangered my priesthood, destroyed your trust, and brought shame to our Church. Please pray for me. Please forgive me.

"Sincerely, Fr. Ken."

Father Schoettmer, 59, came to Queen of Peace Church in 1995. Previously, he served at St. James of the Valley in Wyoming, St. Mary in Hamilton, and St. Julie Billiart in Hamilton.

Father Schoettmer was placed on administrative leave Thursday. As of Saturday, he had not been arrested or charged. Butler County sheriff's officials would not comment further Saturday.

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati learned Tuesday from the sheriff's department that Father Schoettmer was under investigation, spokesman Dan Andriacco said. A man, whose identity has not been released by the sheriff, came to the department with allegations of sexual contact with the priest during the 1980s.

"We are sorry that anyone associated with the Archdiocese would involve themselves in such behavior, whether this is someone involved under (the priest's) pastoral care or not," Mr. Andriacco said.

Queen of Peace parish members were silent and somber as Father Schwartz read Father Schoettmer's statement and did not comment after the Mass.

During the service, Father Schwartz told the parishioners that the situation illustrates that all people have failings.

"I suspect all of us have something we would not like to have revealed," he said. "We are all wounded healers. We have made our mistakes. But whatever they are, the Lord loves us."

Greater Cincinnati has seen a handful of sex abuse cases involving Catholic priests.

In July 2000, the Archdiocese settled a lawsuit involving one of several men who claimed that a former priest, George Cooley, molested them as boys in the early 1980s.

In 1994, the Rev. Ellis Harsham resigned from the priesthood after a former student claimed he was abused in the early 1970s.

In 1992, the Archdiocese inaugurated a child protection policy. When there is a substantiated charge of child abuse against a priest, the priest is placed on a leave of absence.

During that time, he undergoes a psychological evaluation and whatever treatment is recommended.

"The ultimate goal is to return the priest to active ministry that does not involve children. He could no longer be a pastor, for instance," Mr. Andriacco said.

Mr. Andriacco asked that anyone with information about any questionable behavior by Father Schoettmer contact police and the Archdiocese's chancellor, the Rev. Chris Armstrong (513) 421-3131.

 
 

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