Priest Accused of Abuse Still Welcomed As Parade Grand Marshal

Associated Press State & Local Wire
June 17, 2002

A southern Indiana Catholic priest is still welcome to be grand marshal of Haubstadt's Sommerfest festival parade on Saturday, even though he has been suspended because of accusations that he molested two girls in the 1960s.

The four committee members in charge of the parade do not believe the women's allegations against the Rev. Francis Schroering, and have opted not to revoke the invitation, parade chairman Bill Goedde said Monday.

All four committee members are parishioners of Sts. Peter and Paul parish in Haubstadt, where Schroering, 69, was pastor until being put on leave last week by Evansville Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger.

Schroering has denied molesting the women.

"We think still he's a good role model," Goedde said. "It's nice to see that around Haubstadt, Father Schroering still has broad support."

One of the alleged victims said she is opposed to having Schroering serve as grand marshal.

"I just feel under the circumstances that it's clearly inappropriate. Past that, I don't know what more to say," said Melissa Corts, 45.

The former Vincennes, Ind., resident, who now lives in North Carolina, has said Schroering molested her in a church rectory in 1963, when she was 7 years old.

The other woman who came forward, Tonya Raley, 51, of Newburgh, said she is not opposed to Schroering's parade participation, as long as he does not have direct contact with parishioners.

Raley claims Schroering pinned her against the wall in 1969 when she was 18, and fondled her while he visited her home to counsel her.

Raley said she came forward to warn others.

"They have the right to love him for the good thing to he did for them," Raley said. But, "it's something they need to keep a watchful eye on."

This year's parade theme in Haubstadt, about 20 miles north of Evansville, is "For God and Country." It is part of Sommerfest, an annual event celebrating the town's German heritage. About 4,500 people are expected, Goedde said.

Sts. Peter and Paul parish, where Schroering has been pastor since 1991, is one of the town's largest churches with 1,678 parishioners.

Schroering was selected to be grand marshal in late May before allegations against him were made public.

Just weeks earlier, the Rev. Mark Kurzendoerfer, the church's assistant pastor, was removed from ministry for violating restrictions placed on him after he was accused of having a sexual relationship with 14-year-old boy more than 20 years ago.

Partly because of the negative publicity surrounding Kurzendoerfer, committee members wanted to honor a role model in the faith community when they selected Schroering, Goedde said.

Schroering probably will not accept the officer because he is worried about the town's reputation, Goedde said.

"My sense is that from talking to Father and his spokespeople that he doesn't feel this is a time to celebrate," Goedde said.

A message seeking comment from Schroering was left Monday at Sts. Peter and Paul.

Both women have said they did not intend to sue Schroering or the Evansville diocese. Instead, they say he should be permanently removed from his position.

The diocese is investigating the claims.

Within the past six weeks, the Evansville diocese has acknowledged that four of its priests have committed acts of sexual misconduct. The diocese has about 100 priests in all or parts of 12 southwestern Indiana counties.


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