Priest's Suspension Leaves Unanswered Questions

Daily Tribune
November 18, 2011

It's unfortunate that a Catholic priest suspended from pastoral duties after allegations of sexual abuse won't get his day in court.

Who knows? He might have proved his innocence.

The Rev. Gary Schulte, a priest for nearly 40 years, served in parishes in Beverly Hills, Clawson, Madison Heights, Royal Oak and for the last 17 years, at St. Sylvester Church in Warren.

He was placed on administrative leave last month. Archdiocese officials said an allegation of sexual misconduct involving someone at the time younger than 18 years old was made in September to an archdiocese victim assistance counselor.

The archdiocese did not provide details, but indicated the allegation was credible enough to ban Schulte from celebrating Mass or other sacraments and from publicly presenting himself as a priest.

The allegations were taken to police and prosecutors in Oakland County.

The county's chief assistant prosecutor, Paul Watson, said the allegations are too old. The statute of limitations prevents prosecution. Watson indicated the claims were made by a man in his 30s who said he was touched inappropriately by the priest in 1991 in Madison Heights, when the man was 16.

Schulte was pastor at St. Vincent Ferrer parish at that time.

So what happens now?

Not having been found guilty in a court, does Schulte retain a presumption of innocence? Certainly.

But he's been identified as the subject of an accusation, the latest of hundreds, perhaps even thousands, that have plagued the church. Through the accusations, we understand that many thousands of people of all ages and both genders were sexually abused and left emotionally damaged by priests, and that the Church's oversight of its priests at the time and reaction to the allegations years after were wholly inadequate.

That a man now in his mid-30s waited 20 years to approach the church with an accusation suggests that he could have experienced some damage as well.

From our most recent report, it appears that the archdiocese's investigation into the accusation will continue.

Perhaps more people will come forward with their own allegations, some of them within the statute of limitations.

But even if no more are forthcoming, even if the Church exonerates Schulte, the public accusation is likely to stick, whether or not it's deserved.


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