St. Louis Archdiocese Removes Priest after Threat of Lawsuit

By Tim Townsend
St. Louis Post-Dispatch Chatanooga Times Free Press
January 17, 2009


Bishop Robert Hermann, the interim leader of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, has removed one of its priests from active ministry because of a complaint filed against him alleging sexual abuse in the 1980s.

In 2005, a man filed a complaint of sexual abuse against the priest, the Rev. Michael Freymuth. It is unclear if the archdiocese acted on that allegation, but the same man is now threatening to file a lawsuit.

Previously in 2005, Timothy Bartin had accused Freymuth of giving him wine and caressing him while watching "Midnight Express" in the priest's bedroom at St. Joan of Arc's rectory when he was a teenager in the 1980s.

The archdiocese's review board said the priest's actions did not constitute sexual abuse and cleared him. Freymuth is now in residence at Visitation-St. Ann Catholic Church in north St. Louis.

Ken Chackes, the lawyer for the man now threatening to sue, told archdiocesan attorneys Thursday that his client had been "assured that Freymuth was on suspension and no longer in active ministry."

A victims' advocacy organization said a third man also had made accusations against Freymuth in that same time period.

"We believe they're suspending a priest because he has been accused of molesting boys by at least three individuals over a period of more than 10 years," said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivor's Network of those Accused by Priests.

In a statement, Monsignor Richard Hanneke, director of priest personnel for the archdiocese, said Hermann had decided to remove Freymuth from active ministry "because we take all allegations of abuse very seriously."

Bernard Huger, an attorney for the archdiocese, said Friday that by removing Freymuth, Hermann was simply being cautious. Even though the priest had been cleared by the archdiocese in 2005, "there could be new information in a new lawsuit," Huger said.

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