Four Suspended Priests Are Laicized

St. Louis Review
November 3, 2006

Four suspended priests of the archdiocese have been dismissed from the priesthood, Archbishop Raymond L. Burke has announced.

The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has laicized, or permanently dismissed from the clerical state, James A. Funke, James L. Gummersbach, Bryan M. Kuchar and Michael L. Seidel. All four men had what was determined to be credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor against them.

Their priestly faculties had been suspended by the archdiocese and they were forbidden to function or represent themselves as priests.

A statement from the archdiocese noted that Archbishop Burke, after a careful examination of the allegations against the men, asked that the proceedings be undertaken to return the men to the lay state.

Dismissal from the clerical state, which is given with the approval of the pope, means that a priest is dispensed from all obligations that he assumed by way of sacred orders and that the archdiocese no longer has responsibility for his support.

Funke, 58, was sentenced in 1987 to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to 10 counts of second-degree deviate sexual assault. He had been charged with the sexual molestation of two teenage boys. A teacher at Bishop DuBourg High School in South St. Louis for seven years, he and a lay teacher were arrested after an investigation prompted by a call on the child-abuse hotline. His priestly faculties were suspended in 1986.

Funke, ordained in 1974, also had taught at the old Mercy High School in University City. He had served at St. Cecilia, St. Rose of Lima, Visitation and Nativity parishes in St. Louis, St. Patrick in University City and St. Martin of Tours and St. Bernadette in Lemay.

Gummersbach is 78 and was ordained in 1954. A St. Louis jury in 1999 awarded damages to a man who said the priest sexually abused him as a boy. The lawsuit claimed the abuse occurred from 1968-70. An appeals court overturned the case, and a settlement was made.

Gummersbach had served at St. Patrick Parish in Rolla, Immaculate Conception in Union, St. Gregory in St. Ann, Immaculate Conception in St. Louis, Annunziata in Ladue, Immaculate Conception in Park Hills, St. Rose of Lima and St. Agnes in St. Louis and Little Flower Parish in Richmond Heights. He also had served as a chaplain at St. Joseph Hospital in St. Charles, St. Louis Children's Hospital and Deaconess Hospital. He was removed from ministry in 1994.

Kuchar, 41, was sentenced to three years in the St. Louis County Jail in Clayton following his conviction by a jury in August 2003 on three counts of statutory sodomy. He was released Aug. 30. The victim testified at the trial that the sexual abuse occurred in 1995 when Kuchar was associate pastor at Assumption Parish in South County.

Kuchar was associate director of the archdiocesan Office of Vocations and part-time associate pastor at St. John the Baptist Parish in South St. Louis at the time he was arrested. His priestly faculties were suspended by the archdiocese in 2002. Ordained in 1993, his first assignment was as associate pastor at Assumption Parish. Kuchar also served on the staff at Rosati-Kain High School in the Central West End and as part-time associate pastor at St. Timothy Parish in Affton. The following year he was named part-time associate pastor at the Cathedral Basilica Parish. He was assigned to the Vocations Office in 1999.

Seidel, 51, was ordained in 1987. His priestly faculties were suspended by the archdiocese in 1998 after an allegation was made against him and determined to be credible. He had served at Holy Family Parish in St. Louis, Sts. Joachim and Ann Parish in St. Charles and the Basilica of St. Louis, King of France (Old Cathedral) Parish in St. Louis.

Archbishop Burke said in a statement that he expresses his deepest regrets to all who have been harmed by these men and to anyone who has been abused by a member of the clergy. He said he deplores the evil of sexual abuse of a minor and reiterated his and the archdiocese's concern for the welfare of all children.

Anyone who has been harmed by a member of the clergy is encouraged to contact the archdiocesan Office of Youth Protection at (314) 633-2279 or civil authorities.


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