| Forever Altered
By Stephen Nohlgren
St. Petersburg Times
March 22, 2003
The St. Petersburg diocese has been mostly insulated from the scandal enveloping the Catholic church. Until now. With Father Bob scheduled for trial next week, the story emerges of a diocese coming to terms with ugliness long avoided.
They called him Father Bob, an amiable bear of a man who never put on airs. With his scraggly beard and wayward shirttail, no one ever mistook him for bishop material.
Older parishioners adored him. They say he was direct and kind, you could talk to him.
Young men of the church describe a different Father Bob, whose video games and outings exacted a terrible price. Lost innocence still evokes shame and anger.
Allegations span two decades, at six churches, in three counties. Boys in the rectory. Boys staying overnight. Chance after chance for somebody, anybody, to blow the whistle.
Finally, it came down to a decades-old birthday spanking. In April, a mother and father reported that Father Bob had taken their son behind closed doors and paddled his bare bottom.
Such incidents raised nary an eyebrow back then. But by last year, Catholics all over the country were challenging their church.
The era of trust was over. It was time to bring Father Bob in for a chat.
* * *
Robert Schaeufele goes on trial Tuesday, accused of capital sexual battery of a minor. Thousands of Catholic priests have worked in the Tampa Bay area and none ever faced a jury on such charges, which speaks well for a diocese of 350,000 parishioners.
Yet these wounds run deep.
The diocese now knows of 22 men who say Schaeufele molested them. How could this have gone on so long? Did church leaders turn a blind eye? Or were they so unskilled and skittish about sex that they just didn't look hard enough?
In places such as Louisville and Boston, lawsuits and prosecutions have forced church leaders to expose their inner workings. Not so in St. Petersburg. The church here remains mostly private.
This case breaches that. Schaeufele's career began when people trusted their priests without reservation. Church leaders rarely discussed sex or, heaven forbid, questioned troubled children. Even the No. 2 man in the diocese could harbor abusive secrets of his own.
Schaeufele's downfall came as church leaders suspended priests, offered counseling to victims and informed the faithful.
It has been a painful awakening.
In the rectory
Schaeufele, 55, was ordained in 1975 and assigned to St. Petersburg's Cathedral of St. Jude. It wasn't until 27 years later that the church hierarchy questioned him about inappropriate conduct with boys. Chancellor Robert Gibbons took notes of their conversation.
Father Robert Schaeufele
1975: Ordained by St. Petersburg diocese, assigned to Cathedral of St. Jude
1977: St. Vincent de Paul, Holiday
1978: Epiphany, Venice
1980: Corpus Christi, Tampa
1981: Catholic student center, University of South Florida
1983: Sacred Heart, Pinellas Park
1985: St. Rita, Dade City
1991: Holy Cross, St. Petersburg
2001: St. Michael, Hudson
2002: Admits abuse; arrested on capital sexual battery charges;resigns
Schaeufele (pronounced SHOY-flee) told Gibbons that "a couple of things had happened" over the years. After he had moved from St. Jude's to St. Vincent de Paul in Holiday, the priest brought a 12-year-old from St. Jude's up for a visit and fondled him.
"I was trying to show I cared for him. (He came) from a terrible family."
At his third assignment, Epiphany of Venice, he fondled a 15-year-old during an overnight visit. "I could see there was a deep emptiness in the boy. I just didn't know how to fulfill it."
Such rationalizations are common, say therapists who treat priest molesters. Many were abused as minors, their sexuality stunted, and they turn to children for friendship. An Epiphany boy, identified as John Doe in a 2002 lawsuit, says Father Bob lived in an apartment on school grounds. Doe and other boys hung around after school, playing basketball and the priest's Odyssey system, an early video game.
When he was 11 or 12, Doe says, Father Bob took him and another boy to church property on the Myakka River. The priest gave them beer, and they stripped to their underwear and went swimming.
Nobody touched anybody, says Doe, now in his 30s. "I think he was testing us. He was seeing if we would drink and tell something that was bad."
Doe kept mum about the Myakka trip. Before long, he says, he found himself naked on Father Bob's bed, with the priest trying to give him an enema. "He said, 'This will make you feel better.' "
Barbara Zucco, Epiphany's youth director, says Father Bob would volunteer for youth group activities, like saying Mass during weekend sleep-overs at the church. "Not all priests would spend that much time with teenagers." She appreciated that, but not his immaturity. He once ordered in pepperoni pizza on Good Friday, a no-no for Catholics who didn't eat meat on that day. Kids threw pizza slices against a bathroom wall.
"It's horrible now. You are suspicious of all of them.
I don't want to feel that way about our priests. I love them."
-- Barbara Zucco,
Youth director at Epiphany of Venice
"I wanted to pull my hair out," Zucco says. "It was like I had another kid."
If anyone should have been attuned to Schaeufele, it would have been Richard Allen, another priest who lived at Epiphany while working off church grounds. Earlier in his career, Allen molested an adolescent. Before going to Venice, he says, he studied mental health at Loyola University in Chicago, where he got counseling that helped him understand himself and prevent further problems.
Allen says Schaeufele constantly had boys in the Epiphany rectory. "I yelled at him to get them out of there. I was losing my stuff."
D'Angelo and McLoughlin
Former Bishop Thomas Larkin, in charge during Schaeufele's early years, remembers no complaints. Schaeufele's personnel file was run of the mill.
Father Rocco D'Angelo
1956: Ordained in West Virginia
1962: Works in three parishes in Miami diocese
1967: Sent for treatment at Seton Psychiatric Institute, Maryland
1968: Transferred to St. Petersburg diocese. First assignment: St. Charles Borromeo, Port Charlotte
1970: Espiritu Santo, Safety Harbor
1973: St. Peter Claver, Tampa
1979: Good Shepherd, Tampa
Little wonder. The church's handling of two other cases suggests minimal insight into pedophilia, and a distaste for investigation. In 1976, Father Rocco D'Angelo applied for formal acceptance into the St. Petersburg diocese. Because he had transferred from the Miami diocese eight years earlier, St. Petersburg asked Miami for a background report.
The answer was grim: D'Angelo had molested four boys, ages 9-15. Miami sent him to a Maryland treatment center, which pronounced him cured. He was back doing parish work when parents of his victims complained. Miami shipped him off to St. Petersburg.
After receiving Miami's letter, a St. Petersburg diocese spokeswoman says, church leaders paid "special attention" to D'Angelo's conduct. But that monitoring apparently was closely guarded. Monsignor Laurence Higgins, a vicar general and chairman of the personnel board in the early 1980s, says nobody clued him in.
"I never had any knowledge at all" about D'Angelo's problems until 1996, Higgins says. That's when four more men sued the diocese, saying D'Angelo molested them at Tampa's St. Peter Claver and Good Shepherd parishes, where his conduct was being monitored.
Then there was Father Ed McLoughlin. He came to Venice Epiphany just as Schaeufele was leaving. Church documents released in a lawsuit show that McLoughlin quickly became "overly attached" to a young parishioner.
The boy's sister said McLoughlin kept her brother in the rectory overnight about once a week and once took him on a long vacation.
In 1983, the diocese sent McLoughlin away for treatment for depression and "inappropriate conduct with youngsters." But no one from the church ever questioned the boy or his family, his sister says.
Therapists said McLoughlin had trouble controlling his sexual impulses and he needed to separate from the young parishioner. Having been through treatment, the therapists said, McLoughlin could teach high school.
Instead, the diocese transferred him to St. Charles Borromeo in Port Charlotte, under the supervision of his brother, pastor Nicholas McLoughlin. Nicholas put Ed in charge of the youth group.
What followed was a decade of complaints and suspicions.
One assistant priest at St. Charles said he complained that Ed kept a boy overnight in the rectory, but Nicholas did nothing. Another priest testified that priests at St. Charles commonly referred to Ed McLoughlin as a pedophile.
Father J. Keith Symons
1958: Ordained by St. Augustine diocese
1959-1968: Served numerous parishes, including St. Jude, St. Petersburg; St. Ignatius, Tarpon Springs; St. Patrick, Largo; Espiritu Santu, Safety Harbor; Sacred Heart, Pinellas Park; St. Joseph, Bradenton
1971: Chancellor and vicar general of St. Petersburg diocese; lived at St. Mary's, St. Petersburg
1981: Pastor at St. Catherine, Largo, while still vicar general and chancellor
1983: Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee diocese
1990: Bishop of Palm Beach1998: Admits decades-old abuse; resigns
Where they served
FATHER ROBERT SCHAEUFELE
FATHER J. KEITH SYMONS
FATHER ROCCO D'ANGELO
FATHER ED McLOUGHLIN
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.
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