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  School Asks Pallottines to Relocate Priest Fr. Bill Lemanski Has Acknowledged Molesting a Minor in the Past

By Sam Lucero
Milwaukee Catholic Herald
September 23, 2004

MILWAUKEE — A religious order priest who has admitted sexually abusing a minor is being asked to move from a rectory that is located next to a local school.

Woodlands School, an independent charter school with students in preschool to eighth grade, is located at 5510 W. Blue Mound Road, next door to St. Vincent Pallotti Church. Pallottine Fr. Bill Lemanski, who has acknowledged sexually molesting a minor, lives at the church rectory. Woodlands School administrator Maureen Sullivan said Sept. 20 that she has asked the Pallottine provincial, Fr. Leon Martin, to relocate Fr. Lemanski.

"Our position is that we would like to see him moved," said Sullivan. "That's the position from our parents who have spoken with us."

Fr. Lemanski's case was disclosed when members of SNAP (the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests) handed out leaflets to parents at the Woodlands School parking lot on Sept. 9. The leaflet stated Fr. Lemanski poses a threat to the community.

According to Pallottine Fr. Joseph Koyickal, pastor of St. Vincent Pallotti Parish, Fr. Lemanski is under the supervision of the Pallottine community.

"Since he's in a religious community, he's under strict supervision of the superior of the house, so that is the reason he is living there," said Fr. Koyickal.

Fr. Koyickal said Fr. Martin, the religious community's provincial, met with Sullivan, the administrator of Woodlands School, Sept. 10.

"As far as I know, she said it's not much of a concern to her because none of us (Pallottines) are involved directly with the school," he added.

According to Sullivan, she contacted the Milwaukee Archdiocese after the leaflets were distributed. The letter urged concerned citizens to contact Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan. "They explained that because this is an order priest, the archbishop did not have authority over him," said Sullivan. (see Catholic Herald story, "What are religious orders," Aug. 5 issue.)

After meeting with Fr. Martin Sept. 10, Sullivan believes the issue will be resolved to the school's satisfaction.

"He told me that he would be putting together a committee that would make a decision as to what would happen next," she said. "We are anxious for this committee to be formed."

As a result of the leaflet's distribution, Sullivan said the issue was addressed at an orientation meeting for parents Sept. 14. "We did that so that they could ask questions. We did encourage them, if they were interested in doing something, to write a letter to the archdiocese or write a letter to the Pallottine priests," she said.

"We reassured our parents that the Pallottine priests don't come into our school, that we don't have communication with them," added Sullivan. "It would be different if (the priest) would come to the school to teach, but he's not."

Fr. Martin is in Rome until Nov. 4 and could not be reached for comment. He did release a statement read by Fr. Koyickal.

"We are carefully reviewing the matter and certainly we regard any assault against another as an assault against human dignity. We continue to encourage all concerned to engage in the healing process as our faith calls us to," the statement noted. "As a community, we as Pallottines abide by the policy of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops regarding the protection of children and vulnerable adults."

SNAP has argued the religious order is in violation of the U.S. bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People because Fr. Lemanski is listed as pastorally active in the 2004 Wisconsin Pastoral Handbook and the 2004 Official Catholic Directory.

"That would be one of the things we would be talking about" for review, said Fr. Koyickal, referring to Fr. Martin's statement.

In addition to the leaflet, SNAP released a letter written by the late Pallottine Fr. Robert Carney, former provincial, apologizing to the anonymous victim abused by Fr. Lemanski. The letter was written March 26, 2002, and noted that Fr. Lemanski received treatment at a hospital in 1990. "He has not been assigned to any priestly ministry other than saying Mass for convents of nuns," it stated.

Fr. Koyickal said he has not received complaints from people who received the letter. "So far, no one has approached me or mentioned it to me. A couple of people who read those leaflets showed me them and asked what it was about."

Fr. Lemanski, who has lived at the rectory for 11 years, said he could not discuss the case and referred questions to his provincial. "We have been very cooperative with the archdiocese and we have dealt with all of these things," he said. "There is nothing we were hiding from anybody. I think (the archdiocese has) done wonders to help me because they did work with us. It's helped change my life greatly for the better."

Contact: luceros@archmil.org

 
 

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