More Allegations Involving Ohio Priest Surface
Assaults Occurred after Exercise Sessions, Men Report
By Christine Willmsen
Dayton Daily News (Ohio)
June 18, 2002
MASON - In a matter of days, five more men have claimed they were sexually molested by former Elder High School Principal Rev. Larry Strittmatter after playing racquetball.
A total of nine men have now reported being abused by Strittmatter either to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati or to Mason attorney Konrad Kircher.
Kircher's client Bob Fricke publicly came forward as a victim of Strittmatter's on Wednesday.
Fricke, 40, a construction manager in Cincinnati, said on three occasions he was inappropriately touched in the shower and locker room after playing racquetball with Strittmatter at the Friar's Club in the Cincinnati neighborhood of Clifton Heights.
Since then, Kircher has received information from five other men who recall situations like Fricke's while attending Elder High School.
One of those men thanked Fricke for coming forward.
"I had a similar situation with Strittmatter, and I didn't have the guts to come out and say anything," the 1979 graduate said in a voicemail message to Kircher. "I do appreciate him (Fricke). I haven't spoken to anybody about it. . . . I was a sophomore or junior back then." Strittmatter was principal at Elder from 1970-1982 and is currently on administrative leave from his associate pastor position at St. Albert the Great in Kettering.
"He groomed some of them," Kircher said. "The pattern is the same - ask them to go to the Friar's Club, playing either racquetball or handball and then either the shower or the pool or both."
In 1988, a former Elder High School student reported Strittmatter had abused him in the 1970s. Strittmatter sought counseling and was placed at St. Albert the Great, where he was ordered to stay away from children.
Then in May, Fricke reported being sexually abused by Strittmatter to the archdiocese. After substantiating the claim, the archdiocese put the 69-year-old priest on administrative leave.
The archdiocese also reported that two other people had come forward alleging Strittmatter sexually abused them at the Friar's Club after playing racquetball.
Strittmatter, who has been moved to an undisclosed location, didn't deny Fricke's allegation, according to the archdiocese.
On Friday, two days after Fricke spoke openly about the abuse, Kircher received a call from a man reporting he was abused in 1977, when he was a student at Elder High School.
He said he played handball with Strittmatter twice at the Friar's Club, where the priest allegedly fondled him in the shower and in the swimming pool, where it was common to swim nude.
The Friar's Club, run by the Franciscans, opened at its current location in 1931 and was an all-male athletic club primarily for Catholics until 1980. It also had a residential center where Catholic men, priests and Franciscan brothers lived throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Part of the center also housed troubled and abused teen-age boys.
Executive Director Beth Bowsky said it was standard practice for the men to swim nude in the pool. She doesn't know Strittmatter, and said she is unaware of any type of sexual abuse occurring at the gym, where there are two racquetball courts.
"It's horrible and I'm appalled," Bowsky said. "If we can assist the victims, we will offer our help. It's a safe place to come. We try to make sure we're protecting kids, and to have this, it casts a shadow of doubt."
Today, there are 1,000 male and female members that belong to the Friar's Club gym, and at least 50 members are priests, she said.
A married man with children now working as a mental-health professional told Kircher that Strittmatter touched him inappropriately in the pool twice before he graduated in 1978.
"He's thought about it every day," Kircher said about the victim, who lives out of state. "At times he's questioned his sexual orientation and at times he felt tremendously guilty. He went into this field (mental health) because of what happened, to help himself and others."
Another man told Kircher he was abused his senior year in 1980 at the Friar's Club, after Strittmatter had written the athlete several notes to get out of classes earlier in the year.
"I'm finding it harder and harder to believe the church didn't know about his proclivities or activities," Kircher said.
Kircher said his interest in these cases isn't based on financial gain, rather to focus on helping Fricke and others feel comfortable to come forward and to get counseling. Kircher said the victims who contacted him last week did not want their names used.
"We can't get Strittmatter for anything criminally or civilly," Kircher said. "With Strittmatter - he's scot-free. If he's any type of human being, why doesn't he come forward and tell the archdiocese all his victims?"
Fricke wants archdiocese officials to ask Strittmatter to provide a list of his victims.
Archdiocese attorney Mark Vander Laan said, "We will continue to discuss with Strittmatter his recollection of events of the past to provide healing for those who need it."
Vander Laan wouldn't report how many additional victims have come forward since Fricke. But, he said, "We are in receipt of new communications that are being examined."
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