Ex-Classmates Contradict Cardinal Law's Deposition
By Robin Washington
August 21, 2002
In a sworn deposition released a week ago, Bernard Cardinal Law said he was unaware of sexual misconduct by priests until 1973, when he first heard of charges against his former seminary schoolmate and fellow Mississippi priest George Broussard.
"It wasn't on my radar screen," he said to questions by attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr., who is suing the Archdiocese of Boston on behalf of several families claiming abuse by the Rev. Paul Shanley.
But two other men who attended the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, with Law and Broussard in the late 1950s and early '60s say the school was rocked by a major sex scandal that Law could not possibly have been unaware of - or forgotten.
"He certainly would have known. This was a rather huge incident," said Tom Reed of Madison, Wisc., a 1964 Josephinum graduate who served as a clergyman with Law in Mississippi until 1969, when he left the priesthood.
"It was revealed one of the faculty members, (the Rev.) David Heimann, was discovered to have been running a sex ring with high school boys. Afterward, he just immediately disappeared," Reed said.
Jack Fritscher, another Josephinum student, also recalled the incident, which he included in a 2001 novel he wrote based on the seminary. "All this came out that he'd been seducing boys in his apartment at the Josephinum," said Fritscher, though he said he believed no sex actually took place.
"It was a sensitizing situation," he said. "He had people take off their clothes and look at their bodies in mirrors, to tell them how good their bodies were and that 'Jesus loves you and your body.' "
Nonetheless, he said, a scandal broke out at the prestigious seminary, which reports only to the Vatican's ambassador to the United States. "The bishops were pulled in to find out what was going on. Rome wanted to know. There's no way on EarthBernie Law couldn't have known."
After the scandal, Reed said Heimann was forced out of the priesthood and had difficulty making a living, often working as a translator of scholarly books. Heimann has since died, Reed said.
Fritscher said the scandal occurred in 1961, Law's ordination year. Reed was ordained in 1964, an event Law attended. Fritscher left the seminary that year without being ordained.
Josephinum spokeswoman Patty Donahey confirmed Heimann was a student and faculty member. "He attended high school here from 1946 to 1950, college from 1950 to 1954 and the School of Theology from 1954 to 1958," Donahey said.
After his 1958 ordination, he taught at the school until May 1961, when he was dismissed. Donahey said she did not know the reason for his termination, but said Heimann was laicized two years later.
Fritscher said the incident was the second sex scandal at the school during Law's tenure. "Some years before, someone in my class asked what was the average size of a penis," he said. "He took a dozen freshmen and sophomores into a shower and measured them. Nothing much happened but one kid confessed it in confession, which ended up getting the classmate expelled."
A noted gay writer, Fritscher said he was celibate at the seminary. "I probably became gay because of the Josephinum, although nothing happened (to me) there."
Fritscher and Reed say neither they nor Law were involved in the incidents, though Reed suspected Broussard turned in Heimann. In his June 7 deposition, Law described Broussard as a friend during their seminary days and in Mississippi until Law left in 1973 to become bishop of the Diocese of Springfield, Mo.
Around the same time, Law said he first learned of sexual misconduct allegations against Broussard, who was transferred from Jackson, Miss., to a Gulf Coast parish and subsequently left the priesthood.
The vicar general of the Diocese of Jackson at the time, Law said it would not have been his duty to handle Broussard's case and he could not recall a case of priest sex abuse before then.
Yet in the days following the deposition, a Hattiesburg, Miss., man told the Herald his mother alerted Law personally in the mid-60s that the Rev. Bernard Haddican was molesting her son. Haddican, who died in 1996, attended St. Joseph's Seminary in St. Benedict, La., in the 1950s with Law.
And Reed said another scandal erupted in Mississippi about the same time involving another priest. "(The priest) was a monsignor in charge of a minor seminary (high school) in Jackson," Reed said. "He had a long pattern of sexually abusing them as he was tucking them into bed."
The monsignor was removed to a hospital for "alcoholism" treatment, Reed said, but later retired as a priest in good standing.
And, as with the Josephinum scandal, Reed said Law knew. "Oh, absolutely. He was close to Bernie," he said.
Citing pending litigation, church officials in Boston and Jackson declined comment.
Both Reed and Fritscher describe themselves as having struggled with authority, culminating in the abandonment of their vocation. Conversely, they recall Law as a big man on campus, easily pegged as bishop material.
"Law floated on a cloud above all of us. How could he not have known about it?" Fritscher said. "If he didn't know about it, he should be removed. Anybody that disconnected should be fired."
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