Priest at St. Albert Placed on Leave
Allegations from '70s Prompt Move
By Joann Rouse
Dayton Daily News (Ohio)
June 10, 2002
KETTERING - The Archdiocese of Cincinnati has placed the associate pastor of St. Albert the Great parish on leave after learning of allegations he inappropriately touched at least two boys in the late 1970s while serving as principal of Cincinnati's Elder High School.
The allegations against the Roman Catholic priest, the Rev. Lawrence Strittmatter, were revealed to the Kettering parish during weekend services in a rare address at the church by the Rev. Daniel E. Pilarczyk, archbishop of Cincinnati.
Pilarczyk also revealed that Strittmatter was transferred to St. Albert the Great in 1988 after he had been removed from a Cincinnati church under a previous allegation. A former Elder student in 1988 said he had been inappropriately touched by Strittmatter, Pilarczyk said Sunday.
"In 1988, when Father Strittmatter was pastor of Our Lady of Victory parish in Cincinnati, an adult male came to the authorities of the archdiocese to say that some years before, when he was a high school student, Father Strittmatter touched him in an inappropriate way," Pilarczyk read from a prepared statement.
The man requested Strittmatter be moved away from the area where he had been a high school principal and where the offense had taken place, Pilarczyk's statement said. The archdiocese sent Strittmatter to a treatment center for therapy for several months, then to an after-care workshop, before assigning him to St. Albert the Great, Pilarczyk's said.
"There is no record or report of any misbehavior on his part during his time at this parish," Pilarczyk said. "Moreover, his therapists have also assured me that his inclinations were under complete control and that he posed no threat to this community."
The most recent allegations against Strittmatter were made by "two or three" other men who came forward in the past few months, said archdiocese spokesman Dan Andriocca. At least one of those men contacted the Hamilton County Prosecutor's office before contacting the diocese.
"To be specific, we're not talking rape here," Andriocca said. "At the same time, this touching is not less serious or invasive."
Strittmatter did not deny the latest allegations, according to Pilarczyk.
The allegations against Strittmatter marks the third local case since April of a Roman Catholic priest being disciplined because of misconduct. It follows a national months-long scandal about sexual abuse by priests. The U.S. Catholic Church has been shaken by disclosures that priests known to have molested children were transferred from parish to parish.
In April, the Rev. Thomas Hopp resigned as pastor of Queen of Martyrs in Harrison Twp. and was placed on administrative leave after admitting he sexually abused a boy in Shelby County in 1980.
In May, the Rev. Thomas Kuhn, priest at St. Henry Church in Miami Twp., was placed on administrative leave the same day Montgomery County sheriff's deputies removed several computers from the parish center. The matter remains under investigation.
"This environment is bringing out a lot of people who have been dealing with this inside themselves for a long time and have in some cases never told anyone," Andriocca said. "The situation is bad, but the fact that people are coming forward is a good thing and we are encouraging people to come forward."
Andriocca said Pilarczyk spoke at four St. Albert Masses this weekend because of his role in allowing Strittmatter to continue serving as a priest in 1988. At the time Strittmatter was transferred to St. Albert, the church's pastor, the Rev. David Robisch, and later the Rev. James Manning, were made aware of Strittmatter's past actions, church officials said. The archdiocese also directed that Strittmatter never be alone with a minor and that he continue therapy.
Strittmatter has been moved to an undisclosed location, but can no longer wear a collar or perform the duties of a priest, Andriocca said. Strittmatter, 69, was planning to retire in six months.
"For him there probably is no next step," Andriocca said. He is six months away from mandatory retirement. The only further thing we can do is defrocking. That is a very difficult and lengthy process that is not always successful."
St. Albert's has not made plans to replace Strittmatter, Andriocca said.
The archdiocese has appointed a response team to address parishioner's questions or concerns. The response team is made up by the Rev. Michael Pucke, Dr. Charles Handel and Sister Fran Repka and will be available for consultation at the church 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Pilarczyk announced Strittmatter's leave of absence after the Masses, then waited at the door to talk with parishioners on their way out.
"I apologize from the bottom of my heart to those who have been abused by Father Strittmatter," Pilarczyk said in his statement. "If there are any victims in our diocese or elsewhere who are in need of counseling assistance and who have not yet come forward, I urge them to do so now."
Strittmatter was born in Cleveland and grew up in Cincinnati, graduating from Purcell High School. He entered Mount St. Mary's Seminary of the West in Norwood and was ordained May 25, 1957.
Strittmatter, who holds a master of education degree in classical languages from Xavier University, taught Latin at Elder High School in Cincinnati for several years and was awarded a Fulbright scholarship, which he used to study classical antiquities and archeology in Cumae, Italy.
From 1970 to 1981, Strittmatter was principal of Elder.
Strittmatter was ordained a priest in 1957. Parishes to which he was assigned include: Resurrection, Cincinnati, 1957 to 1962; St. Leo the Great, Cincinnati, 1962 to 1967; St. Bernard, Cincinnati, 1967 to 1970; Sisters of Charity, Mount St. Joseph, 1970 to 1981; Holy Trinity, Batavia, 1981 to 1982; Our Lady of Victory, Delhi, 1982 to 1988.
He also served as a chaplain of the U.S. Naval Reserve in 1972 and served in Annapolis, Md., the Great Lakes, Parris Island, S.C., and on various ships.
Strittmatter has been active in St. Albert the Great operations, overseeing coordination of its worship services and saying Mass weekly. He has also presided at the popular, annual blessings of animals for people's pets.
CORRECTION-DATE: June 11, 2002 Tuesday
* In Monday's editions, Page A4, the story 'Priest at St. Albert placed on leave' from page A1should have identified archdiocese spokesman as Dan Andriacco.
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