Another Evansville Priest Accused of Abuse

Associated Press State & Local Wire
June 20, 2002

Another southern Indiana Catholic priest has been suspended while a sexual abuse allegation against him is investigated, Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger announced Thursday.

The Rev. Kenneth Graehler, the pastor of St. Mary Church in Sullivan and St. Joan of Arc Church in Jasonville, was placed on administrative leave. Gettelfinger would not disclose the allegation.

Messages were left Thursday for Graehler at both parish offices.

A panel of lay people that will be appointed next week to handle such complaints will review the allegation, Gettelfinger said at a news conference.

Such panels were mandated last week in a new policy approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Dallas. The bishops also approved guidelines that allow them to keep sexually abusive clergy in the priesthood but bar them from face-to-face contact with parishioners.

"Hopefully, this will be the last" accusation made against an Evansville diocese priest, Gettelfinger said.

In recent weeks, allegations of abuse have been made public against a handful of priests in the diocese - some of whom will now be taken out of ministry in the diocese, which includes about 100 priests in all or parts of 12 counties in southwestern Indiana.

Because of the new policy, the Rev. Michael Allen, pastor at St. Peter Celestine Catholic Church, will deliver his last public mass on Sunday and his last day as priest there will be July 3, Gettelfinger said.

Allen was assigned about a year ago to the rural DuBois County church after receiving treatment for having an admitted sexual relationship with a 16-year-old boy more than 20 years earlier.

Allen has the option to resign, move into a religious colony or go into seclusion, but he has not made up his mind, Gettelfinger said.

Some parishioners have written Gettelfinger asking that Allen remain pastor. But Gettelefinger said that is not an option under the new policy.

"That's the bottom line, he's out of public ministry," Gettelfinger said.

The Rev. Mark Kurzendoerfer, however, who was accused in the early 1990s of having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old boy more than 20 years ago, only has the option of resigning or going into seclusion, Gettelfinger said.

Kurzendoerfer, who most recently was an associate pastor at churches in Haubstadt, Princeton and Oakland City, was sent to a treatment center in St. Louis in May after Gettelfinger said Kurzendoerfer had violated rules prohibiting him from being alone with children.

Both Allen and Kurzendoerfer have admitted to past sexual misconduct, Gettelfinger said.

In addition to Graehler, another diocese priest is under adminstrative leave while the allegations against him are reviewed. The Rev. Francis Schroering, the pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul parish in Haubstadt, has been accused of molesting two girls in the 1960s.

He has denied the allegations.

Under the new policy, the Rev. Jean Vogler, who spent a year in prison after a 1996 conviction on possession of child pornagraphy, will remain in his position as associate pastor at Holy Trinity Church in Evanville because his crime did not involve abuse of a person, Gettelfinger said.

Gettelfinger said he met on Sunday in New Mexico with Joseph L. Clauss, 71, a diocese priest who was sent to an institution more than a decade ago because of what the diocese said was an allegation of sexual abuse in Ohio in 1990, and is now in seclusion.

Gettelfinger said he told Clauss he can no longer go by the title "the Reverend" or "Father," Gettelfinger said.

Gettelfinger said Clauss has been told any mail addressed to him with those titles must be returned and his public phone must be shut off because he could use that for ministry. If there is an emergency, Clauss can use a house phone, Gettelfinger said.

Clauss was "clearly pained," at the news, Gettelfinger said. "There's a loss of what he has had."

Another diocese priest, the Rev. Richard J. Wildeman, 51, resigned in late May after admitting he fondled a 16-year-old girl more than 20 years ago, the diocese said. Wildeman was serving in Haiti at the time.


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