|America's Worst Bishops
March 9, 2009
There are obviously many more pedophile-priests than what is listed below, however, these vignettes are from a 2002 blog, right before the news media caught on to the clergy sex abuse scandals.
In late March 2002, Bishop Gettelfinger told parishioners that priests who sexually abuse children are guilty of "grave sins" and that he would not tolerate them. A couple months later, news accounts detailed the backgrounds of six diocesan priests, including:
Father Mark Kurzendoerfer, who was transferred to a different teaching job in 1981 after being accused of abusing a 14-year-old student. Soon after coming to Evansville in 1989, Bishop Gettelfinger ordered Father Kurzendoerfer not to have a youth ministry--although he let him work at a parish with a school. In May, the bishop suspended the priest and sent him to counseling, saying that he had violated the order by having private counseling sessions with 11-year-old students. Parents and the school principal had not been told about the restriction. Bishop Gettelfinger acknowledged that he had also sent Father Kurzendoerfer into "extensive therapy" after he admitted soliciting a 17-year-old in 1998. The young man then identified himself to the Evansville Courier & Press as the priest's nephew.
Father Francis Schroering, who was assigned by Bishop Gettelfinger to supervise Father Kurzendoerfer and was himself accused of fondling two girls in the 1960s. Father Schoering has denied the allegations and said he could not remember either woman who made them. He was placed on administrative leave from his post as pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Haubstadt, Ind., in mid-June.
Father Kenneth Graehler, 64, has been put on administrative leave pending an investigation into an allegation of sexual abuse. Bishop Gettelfinger has declined to discuss details of the allegation, but said it had been turned over to law enforcement officials.
Father Jean Vogler, who spent 10 months in federal prison in 1996 on a child pornography conviction. Bishop Gettelfinger has decided to allow Vogler to remain as associate pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Evansville, despite his 1996 conviction for possession of child pornography. The bishop said Father Vogler's crime does not fit under the new policy on sexual abuse because the crime did not involve the direct abuse of a child. According to the New York Times, Volger's parishioners drew a distinction between pedophilia and possession of pornography. One parishioner was quoted as saying "The [church's members] opened their arms up with forgiveness."
Father Richard J. Wildeman, who left the ministry in May 2002 after admitting to fondling a 16 year-old-girl 20 years ago. Meanwhile, in early June, Bishop Gettelfinger summoned Father Wildeman back to Evansville from Haiti, where he had been serving, after a woman came forward with her story of the alleged sexual misconduct. Father Wildeman admitted to the incidents. Over the years Father Wildeman was assigned to youth ministry and was a Boy Scout chaplain.
Father Michael Allen, who admitted that in 1974 he was involved in a series of sexual encounters with a 16-year-old boy. Gettelfinger admitted in May that he knew of the Allen allegation in 1993 but decided not to report them to law enforcement, according to the Evansville Courier & Press.
Following the U.S. bishops' meeting in Dallas in mid-June, Bishop Gettelfinger decided to remove Allen as pastor of St. Peter Celestine Church in Celestine, Ind. His victim, David Prunty, now a 42-year-old social worker in Minnesota, said the sexual relationship began when Allen was counseling him following his father's death. Bishop Gettelfinger has said he first became aware of the allegations against Allen in the early 1990s and sent him through a two-year treatment program that included time at a center for clergy with sexual problems. About a year ago he assigned Allen to a parish, but Allen was not allowed to work in youth ministry. "I never put any youngster at risk by reason of my assignments," the bishop said this month, according to the Evansville Courier & Press. He expressed regret, however, that the allegations against Allen weren't revealed earlier and said he will reveal such allegations in the future.
In an April 26 letter to Prunty, diocesan attorney David V. Miller sought a confidentiality commitment. "If I do not receive the 'REQUEST TO MAINTAIN PRIVACY' signed by you ... the Bishop will disclose what he knows about the matter in a public forum and to appropriate civil authorities" according to documents received by the Evansville Courier. Several years ago, an attorney working for him unsuccessfully sought $150,000 in damages from the diocese, the paper said.
A similar tactic was used with the other alleged victim, according to the Evansville Courier. In that letter from Gettelfinger, dated April 29, the man was asked to sign a confidentiality agreement stating that "I hereby request that Bishop Gettelfinger WITHHOLD FROM DISCLOSURE to prosecutors, law enforcement authorities and all other persons ..." information about the incident that occurred when the man was 14.
In early June, Bishop Gettelfinger said of Father Allen: "The people have come to love him because of his pastoral gifts, his ministering to his people, his presence to his people, the attention given to them," Gettelfinger said. "He really has been the priestly leader that they were looking for, yearning for, and now have."
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