Bishop Speaks out about Sex Abuse Scandal

By Sarah Cornell
August 30, 2007

Evansville - NEWS 25 learns two new victims have come forward accusing the late Monsignor Othmar Schroeder of sexual abuse. That brings the number of victims to ten. Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger says Monsignor Schroeder's victims were alter boys, boys who stayed after school for athletics and boy scouts. He says he wouldn't be surprised if the number of victims continues to grow.

Schroeder founded Holy Family Church in Jasper in 1947. He died in 1988. Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger came to the Evansville diocese one year after his death.

Gettelfinger first learned of the Schroeder's abuse in 1996 but didn't report it because he said society wouldn't have accepted it.

"It was a private relationship between the victim and bishop in this case. It just wasn't talked about," says Gettelfinger.

Gettelfinger tells NEWS 25 widespread priest abuse started becoming public in 2002. But he didn't tell the congregations at Holy Family or Sacred Heart, where Schroeder worked, until just weeks ago when the number of victims had grown. Gettelfinger tells NEWS 25 his announcement prompted victims from other diocese to come forward.

"One had to do with a male who'd been abused as a child. And also a female who'd been abused, rapped by a priest," says Gettelfinger.

Some of Schroeder's victims asked Gettelfinger why he didn't report what he knew sooner. He's even heard rumors some victims have left the Catholic Church because he waited.

"I regret the pain they suffered because of the delay. But most of the victims I talked with are just glad that it's out," says Gettelfinger.

A 12-foot memorial paying tribute to Monsignor Schroeder stands near his grave. Gettelfinger does not know if it will be removed. He says the Evansville Catholic Diocese is not facing any lawsuits in connection with the scandal.

A victims assistance coordinator, who is not related to the Catholic Diocese, is available to talk with victims of priest abuse. Gettelfinger himself is also available to listen to victims, but does not have the authority to counsel them.

A healing service for victims of any type of sex abuse will be held at St. Joseph's church in Jasper sometime in late fall.


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