Wichita-area Catholic priest placed on leave by diocese over child sex abuse report

Wichita Eagle [Wichita KS]

November 2, 2021

By Amy Renee Leiker

A local priest has been placed on administrative leave and restricted from his ministering duties following accusations that he sexually abused at least one child more than a quarter century ago.

The Catholic Diocese of Wichita announced Monday that Bishop Carl A. Kemme put Rev. Michael Schemm on leave after the Diocesean Review Board made the recommendation following an initial review of the allegations, according to a news release.

Schemm did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment Tuesday.

“While on leave, Father Schemm will maintain his faculties as a priest and the diocese will continue its support,” the release says. “However, Father Schemm will be restricted from offering sacraments and preaching in the Catholic Diocese of Wichita until the investigation has been completed.”

Schemm had been the pastor at the Church of the Resurrection, 4910 N. Woodlawn in Bel Aire. He will remain on leave pending “the completion of a full investigation,” the release says. It wasn’t immediately clear how long that might take.

The diocese on Monday provided no specific details about the allegations including when they reportedly occurred or the age of the alleged victim, citing the investigative process as the reason for withholding other information.

It did say in the release that law enforcement had been notified about the case. Spokespeople for the Wichita Police Department, the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation all told The Eagle on Tuesday that they had not received a report from the diocese about the alleged sex abuse.

A diocese spokesman later clarified that the report had been made to Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett’s office.

Bennett, in a prepared statement Tuesday, said the alleged crimes date back to a “time frame over 25 years ago.” He said the case was referred to his office by the local Exploited and Missing Child Unit late Tuesday morning to consider for prosecution but did not give other details about the reported conduct.

“Additional information may be made public following the presentation of the matter for a final charging determination at the conclusion of any follow up investigation,” Bennett said in the statement.

In Monday’s news release, the Catholic Diocese of Wichita said that “every allegation of sexual abuse of a minor against a bishop, priest, religious or member of the laity representing the church will be addressed professionally, transparently and thoroughly according to the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, so that justice will be served and that victims will find healing.”

It also encouraged anyone who has experienced or suspects abuse or inappropriate behavior by a diocesan employee or volunteer is asked to contact the victim’s assistance coordinator at 316-440-1757 or visit www.CatholicDioceseofWichita.org/promise-to-protect.

“Both abuse and its cover-up by bishops, priests, religious and anyone representing the Church can never be tolerated,” the diocese release says.

Sexual misconduct committed by clergy members of any religious denomination can also be reported to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation at 1-800-KS-CRIME (1-800-572-7463) or by emailing ClergyAbuse@kbi.ks.gov.