|'Credible' Abuse Accusation Brought against Dead Priest
By Linda Leicht
January 1, 2008
The sexual misconduct review board of the Springfield-Cape Girardeau Catholic Diocese has announced its determination of a "credible" accusation of abuse.
The event dates back 40 years, and the accused priest died in 1997, but the diocese is taking steps to address the impact of the abuse, said Recy Moore, spokeswoman for the diocese.
Louis Wyrsch is the fifth priest in the diocese to be named as having sexually abused a minor. Three were removed from the ministry following the accusations. Like Wyrsch, the fourth had died before the accusations were made.
Wyrsch left priestly ministry in 1973, 11 years after his ordination in Rome. He was defrocked by the church in 1989 and married.
Details of the accusation against Wyrsch are not being released.
"We are at the very early stages of this," said Moore.
The accuser is not being identified by the diocese.
Following meetings of the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops in 2002 to discuss the clergy sex-abuse crisis, the Springfield diocese joined other U.S. dioceses to develop a review board, as required by the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People passed by the bishops.
Springfield Bishop John Leibrecht promised that the diocesan policy, revised to meet the new standards, would be effective. One of the major changes in the policy calls for all allegations of abuse to be brought to civil authorities. Under the charter, any priest found to have committed even a "single act" of sexual abuse of a minor must be permanently removed from public ministry.
Before the charter or the diocese's revised policy were developed, the diocese announced the names of three priests who had been accused of sexual abuse dating back to 1981. Leonard Chambers, Amel Shibley and Lawrence E. Gregovich were all eventually removed from ministry after they admitted the abuse, but none was reported to law enforcement.
Gregovich was ordered to retire in 1992 when the families of three boys he abused came forward, but Shibley and Chambers continued to serve in restricted positions for years after the accusations were made.
Since the review board has been established, accusations against two priests have been brought forward. Both had died years earlier.
In December 2006 and January 2007, two people brought "credible" accusations against Eugene Deragowski, who died in 1981. Both accusers said the abuse took place in the 1960s. The victims' identities have not been released as requested by the complainants, according to the diocese.
Moore did not have the date when the allegations against Wyrsch were brought to the diocese, although she said it was recently.
"This is not an easy thing for them to come forward with," said Moore.
"Hopefully, it will encourage others to go forward."
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