Louisville Couple Suing Archdiocese

January 27, 2011

[with video]

A Louisville couple has sued the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville, contending the wife was fired for complaining about a priest who was removed from ministry.

The lawsuit filed by Gary and Margie Weiter, of Louisville, alleged the archdiocese violated its own policies on responding to sexual abuse. St. Therese Catholic Church in Louisville's Germantown neighborhood is at the center of the new lawsuit.

Margie Weiter contended a priest who had allegedly been sexually abusive was moving about at the parish unsupervised and circulating among children and that she was fired when she complained.

“Besides telling her to be quiet, they fired her and at 63 years old, she lost benefits, her income,” said attorney Mikell Grafton.

In 2009, WLKY reported a claim of sex abuse against the Rev. James Schook.

The archdiocese placed him on a leave of absence from St. Ignatius Parish.

“He is not denied nor has he admitted. He's basically said that you need to do what you need to do to investigate this,” Brian Reynolds of the archdiocese said in 2009.

According to the suit Gary and Margie Weiter filed, Schook was secretly brought to St. Therese to live.

The complaint said Schook moved about the parish unsupervised around children including in his bathing suit.

When Margie Weiter, who worked at the church as a bookkeeper and secretary, complained, the suit said parish priest Tony Olges told her to keep quiet.

Other leaders allegedly told her Schook "deserved to be taken care of.”

She said when she confronted Schook, he said "the archdiocese owed him a place to live regardless of his crimes."

Gary Weiter was among 243 people who settled with the archdiocese in 2003 for $25.7 million over claims of past sexual abuse. He contended in the lawsuit that the trauma he suffered years earlier was revived by the church's handling of the later situation. Gary Weiter said he was traumatized by Schook's presence because in the '60s he was abused at St. Therese by the Rev. John Scherzer. Gary Weiter's cousin, Tom Weiter, said he too was abused by Scherzer at St. Therese.

“He would take you and get you in a headlock and he'd take my face and shove it down in his crotch area,” Tom Weiter said.

Four members of the priest sex abuse victims group, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, including Tom Weiter, condemned the actions of the archdiocese in this new case.

“They don't have a clue about restoring trust,” SNAP member Colleen Powell said.

“I think it's terrible what they've done in the past and what they're still doing,” said SNAP’s John Scott.

“It's contrary to what they said they would do,” member Cal Pfeiffer said.

“It's the arrogance of the Catholic Church. It doesn't surprise me,” Tom Weiter said.

The archdiocese released a statement Thursday saying Margie Weiter lost her job when three parish offices merged and there was a staff reduction based on seniority. The statement said the archdiocese helped her find a job at another parish, where it said she is still working, and that it would investigate the personnel issue. The statement also said the archdiocese would offer pastoral assistance and counseling to Gary Weiter.


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