Number of Allegations Rises against Southern Indiana Priest

By Ryan Lenz
Associated Press
August 31, 2007

Evansville, Ind. — Roman Catholic church officials said Friday that more than 10 people have come forward with allegations they were sexually abused by a southern Indiana priest.

The Diocese of Evansville said the number of allegations against Monsignor Othmar Schroeder, who died in 1988, has continued to grow since Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger announced the abuse during sermons at a Jasper church two weekends ago.

Diocese spokesman Paul Leingang said the allegations were the most against one priest in the diocese's 64-year history, but he cited church confidentiality in not providing more specific numbers.

"The continual thing is the invitation for people who have been abused to come forward," Leingang said.

Schroeder, a once admired priest, was the founding pastor of the Holy Family Church in Jasper, about 50 miles northeast of Evansville. He remained at the parish for 28 years until 1975, when he was transferred to Sacred Heart Church in nearby Schnellville.

The allegations in recent weeks have sullied Schroeder's legacy and led the bishop to ask for his picture be removed from Holy Family and for the Knights of Columbus branch in Jasper to change the name of a memorial in his honor.

David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abuse by Priests, said the number of victims of clergy sex abuse who come forward often are a fraction of the population they represent.

Clohessy said he expected the number of allegations of abuse at Schroeder's hands to grow.

"My hunch is that if 10 have come forward, there may well be dozens more still trapped in shame and confusion," Clohessy said. "Typically only the tip of the iceberg comes forward."

Clohessy, a victim of clergy sexual abuse, planned to protest Sunday outside Evansville's cathedral with fliers demanding church officials disclose details of "a pedophile priest's sex crimes" and urge others abused by clergy to come forward.

Gettelfinger has told diocese congregations in the past two weeks that he learned of the allegations as early as 1996, but that his commitment at the time was to offer counseling and protect victims' confidentiality.

The scope of the abuse, however, now appears "greater than we knew," the bishop said., a Massachusetts group that has amassed thousands of documents on abusive priests and their bishops, lists eight priests from the Evansville Diocese accused of misconduct, including two who have been convicted of possessing child pornography.

The number is the second highest in the state's five dioceses, falling behind the Archdiocese of Indianapolis with 16 priests, according to an organization's tally.


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