Terminated Priest Sought Money from Parishioners, Report Says

Associated Press State & Local Wire
May 22, 2002

A Roman Catholic priest who has been institutionalized as an "incurable pedophile" has been soliciting money from former parishioners who believed he was doing mission work, according to a newspaper report.

The Rev. Joseph L. Clauss, 71, has been banned by the Evansville diocese from active ministry since 1990 and kept under constant supervision because he is still considered a risk to children.

But from facilities in New Mexico and California where he was ordered to live, he has been sending letters to southern Indiana residents, the Evansville Courier & Press reported in a story published Wednesday.

In the letters, Clauss offered to say Masses in return for donations and led at least one family to believe he had been working at mission churches on Indian reservations.

At least some of the money sent to Clauss has been deposited in an investment account at a bank in Vincennes.

A message seeking comment was left Wednesday for Clauss at the treatment facility where diocese officials say he lives in New Mexico.

Copies of several letters from Clauss and information about the bank account was given to the Courier & Press by family members of an elderly Evansville woman who had been sending money to Clauss before her death last September.

"We feel like we've been deceived," said Margaret Gross, who found letters sent by Clauss to her mother.

One of Gross' sisters, Monica Evans, has also found canceled checks, written to Clauss by her mother. Another sister, Patricia Kahmi, said she was angry with both Clauss and Evansville Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger, who banned Clauss from active ministry in 1990 after Clauss was accused of sexually molesting a child.

Gettelfinger kept the matter confidential.

"The bishop sheltered this information and caused more harm than good," Kahmi said.

The women's mother, Mary Alice McCoy, sent small amounts of money to Clauss, believing he was retired from the Evansville diocese and was working with children on an Indian reservation, Kahmi said.

"My sisters are very upset and angry. The church seems to believe silence is morally correct," Kahmi said.

The matter has come to the attention of Gettelfinger, who announced at a meeting Monday that he would soon travel to New Mexico to confront Clauss about the allegations.

At the meeting, held at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Evansville, Gettelfinger said Clauss was "in denial" about the circumstances that caused him to be terminated from active ministry.

Since 1990, the diocese has been paying for Clauss' treatment and for his living expenses at the institutions.


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