Two Women Accuse Evansville Diocese Priest of Abuse in 1960s

Associated Press State & Local Wire
June 11, 2002

The Evansville Roman Catholic diocese is reviewing allegations by two women that they were abused in the 1960s by a southern Indiana priest.

The allegations, which the priest denies, follow revelations this spring that at least four other priests in the diocese had committed sexual improprieties, the Evansville Courier & Press reported in a story Tuesday.

The diocese said that two allegations of misconduct had been made against the Rev. Francis Schroering, the 69-year-old pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Haubstadt, about 20 miles north of Evansville.

Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger, who has allowed two priests to remain active despite past sexual misconduct, told the newspaper Monday that the investigation of one allegation involving Schroering had already begun.

A second allegation, brought to Gettelfinger's attention Monday afternoon, also is under review.

Schroering denied the allegations and said he could not remember either woman who made them.

"I have no knowledge of either (alleged) incident," Schroering said. "If my life and salvation depended on it, I can't remember them ever happening."

Schroering said he and fellow priests have feared such allegations in recent months as cases of clergy abuse have been made public.

"I think endless allegations against many priests will be coming forward," said Schroering. "That doesn't mean they're true."

Schroering remained Tuesday in his pastor position, diocese spokesman Paul Leingang said.

Gettelfinger this week is to attend a national bishops' conference where a new sex-abuse policy will be discussed.

In the last month in the Evansville diocese, three priests have admitted to sexual misconduct with minors, and a fourth has been identified by the diocese as an "incurable pedophile" removed from active ministry more than 10 years ago.

The Haubstadt church where Schroering has been pastor since 1991 includes about 650 families and has an elementary school of some 200 students.

Both women who made the allegations contacted both the Evansville diocese and the Courier & Press.

One allegation was made in mid-May to the Evansville diocese by an attorney on behalf of Melissa Corts, 45, a former Vincennes, Ind., resident who now lives in North Carolina.

In an interview with the newspaper, Corts said she was fondled in 1963 in the rectory of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Vincennes, where Schroering was then an assistant pastor.

Corts said she did not know Schroering's name at the time, and could only identify him when she was an adult, after seeing his photograph in 1995.

The other allegation was made by Tonya Raley, 51, of Newburgh. In a letter sent this month to Gettelfinger and the newspaper, Raley said she was fondled in 1969, when she was 18. Schroering was then assistant pastor at St. Mary Catholic Church in Evansville.

Raley said the fondling occurred in her home in Evansville where Schroering had come to counsel her.

She said after the incident, she never saw Schroering again and never returned to church.

Raley said she regretted not coming forward sooner with the allegation.

"But I don't think it would have made a difference if I had come forward back then," said Raley. "I don't know if I would have been believed."

After hearing of the allegations made against him Monday, Schroering said he wasn't upset with his accusers.

"We are going through a tough time in the church, but this will be a purifying process," said Schroering. "We have to go through this."


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